Fellow Since 1992
This profile was prepared when Zadrak Wamebu was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1992.
The New Idea
For centuries, foreigners have taken over the lands of indigenous peoples that have come under their control, almost without knowing they are doing so, by importing and giving precedence to their own laws and implementing bureaucracies. The legal concept of land ownership is redefined and new mechanisms for recording transfers and establishing ownership introduced. The newcomers understand, since the new system they are importing is theirs. But, unaware that there are new rules, let alone how to use them, the indigenous people do not use them and lose out. The newcomers, equally ignorant of traditional land laws and therefore rights, take possession without embarrassment and then, especially once subsequent purchases and sales have taken place, look to the law and the state's power to defend what is "theirs."Zadrak wants to short-circuit this predictably unfair and deeply divisive process by helping both sides understand that there are two overlapping and conflicting sets of laws at work. He also seeks to help the Irianese community's leaders learn how to use the two systems both to protect their people's interests vis-a-vis the non-Irianese immigrants to the island and to negotiate conflicts between Irianese clans that otherwise tend to build up into violence.First, he is analyzing and codifying the traditional laws of the clans governing land tenure and use. A 1960 Indonesian law, the Land Regulation Act Number Five, gives significant recognition to such customary laws. By making them easily accessible in writing, he will provide new grounds that local people can use to defend their interests and a tool that judges and administrators can use as well.Second, he will work with the clans to define disputed borders between them, thus helping them to unite rather than fight. Finally, he will offer a series of training courses and follow-on backup for Irianese community and religious leaders that will enable them to know and fight effectively for their constituents' rights. In addition to giving his community the capacity to deal with this particularly urgent set of issues, Zadrak hopes that through this training, he will be helping the new generation of indigenous leaders that is now beginning to emerge learn how to build their own, new forms of community dispute resolution capacity. Not only will this reduce their communities' dependence on incomprehensible and expensive lawyers and courts, but it is also a major step towards true local self governance.