18 May Pejuang Laut Profile: Marthen Sinay – A King Who is Making Waves of Change in Aboru

In May 2017, Marthen Sinay (35) was inaugurated as king of Aboru Village in Haruku Island, Central Maluku. Ever since, he has inheritably ruled the village which is rich with marine biodiversity and other natural resources. Despite being blessed of its natural wealth, Marthen admitted that Aboru is actually a quite challenging area to be managed.

With a total coverage area of 17 square kilometre, the Aboru Village stands on a combination of complex landscapes of mountainous area and rocky cliff coasts. It is one of the biggest yet most isolated villages in the Maluku with difficult access of public communications and transportations. On the other hand, Aboru also suffers from social stigma for it was once the base of separatist movement in Maluku.

“People are afraid of us. The community in Aboru is known as notoriously hard to work with due to these geographically limitations, even between the native local communities within the island,” he said during CTC’s visit to Aboru in April 2018.

Strong custom influence is another reason for the community to seemingly resist any changes or ideas from outside their village or family clans, which has brought disadvantages for the villagers. With population of more than 2,783 people, the average income per capita in Aboru Village is less than IDR 400,000 per month, or less than USD 1 per day (Statistics Indonesia, 2017). The main livelihoods in Aboru are as farmer and fishermen.

Having a chance to pursue higher education in Ambon, Marthen noticed that behavioural change is the key for his own community to move forward. According to his perspective, the Negeri Aboru (local term of a village in Maluku) must open itself to any good changes from outside without leaving its customs.

For example, Aboru has several diving points with beautiful coral reef ecosystems which are potential to be new marine tourism destination, as well as the abundant fish amount to support the fishery industry in Maluku. In Haruku, the total potential of fish catch was around 7,618.9 metric tons in 2016. “We can build the village inside out by learning new knowledge in managing the natural resources,” he said.

The willingness to change has motivated Marthen to support CTC’s works in establishing marine protected area (MPA) in Lease Islands, whereas Haruku is one of the three major islands in Lease aside from Saparua and Nusalaut. The MPA status itself has been reserved through the Governor’s Decree No. 387 of 2016, and currently being scaled up for a stipulation by the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries in Indonesia. The Lease Islands MPA covers a total area of 81,573.48 hectares.

This year, Marthen has sent two villagers to attend the Basic MPA Training in Saparua in April, while he joined the Behavioural Change Workshop for Local Champions in Ambon in May. He also joined CTC’s diving team while conducting biophysics survey in Lease to witness the true underwater beauty of Aboru. These activities were done under the USAID Sustainable Ecosystems Advanced (SEA) Project.

As follow up, Marthen has planned to hold more meetings with the villagers to spread the information about marine conservation and its benefits for the future prosperity in Aboru. He realizes that this would not be easy to do, but he believes that by building intensive communication and education, the community will eventually be empowered to develop the area, as well as breaking the stigma.

“I have power as a king and I will use that to make changes just like dripping water hollows out the stone, not through force, but through persistence,” he concluded. (*)

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