Jull Takaliuang is an indigenous woman, a legal advocate, and a defender of the environment and human rights from the small village of Menggawa in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Jull founded AMMALTA, an organization that fights for the rights of communities impacted by gold mining. Since 1998, she has led Yayasan Suara Nurani Minaesa (YSNM), an environmental and human rights advocacy organization.
Jull began her environmental advocacy when she discovered that people in the primarily indigenous communities living in and around Buyat Bay were showing symptoms of metal poisoning, resulting in paralysis and even death. Tests of the soil indicated high levels of contamination caused by hexavalent chromium, a toxic industrial waste product from mining operations nearby.
In response, Jull organized the Bangka Island community in Buyat Bay and led a successful campaign that ultimately shut down the Chinese mining company responsible for the pollution. Jull believes strongly that justice can be achieved through the just application of the law. She led the efforts to help the Bangka Island community find lawyers and to monitor and document the problem, as well as provide data and information to support their case in court. In January 2012, they filed a lawsuit to revoke the company’s exploration permit, but in August 2012 their suit was rejected by the Administrative Court (PTUN) in Manado. Following this, the Bangka people, together with allies from the tourism industry, appealed to a Higher Administrative Court in Makassar, South Sulawesi, and were successful. In March 2013, the Court reversed the earlier decision and revoked the exploration permit. The mining company then appealed to the Supreme Court, but their appeal was rejected.
Because of her activism to stop destructive gold mining, reclaim beaches from exploitation, and halt illegal logging carried out by members of the police on Bangka Island, Jull experienced many threats. These included physical attacks arranged by the mining company. She was also unlawfully detained and placed under house arrest, with one year’s probation, in retaliation for her activism.
“When the land is taken, we do not have power.” Jull strongly believes this and reminds her community to fight for their ancestral domains and to reclaim their own leadership. Community members showed full support when Jull had to attend court proceedings; they accompanied her in court, bringing her food and water for long court sessions.
Jull’s activism also had consequences for her family. As a result of her involvement in a campaign for improved maternal health services during the years 2010-2014, Jull and her family were blacklisted and prevented from using hospitals and health services in the area. When her son needed to be hospitalized for dengue fever, it was difficult to find doctors who would agree to treat him. Jull, fearing for her child’s safety, only kept him in the hospital for one day.
For more than a decade, Jull has led efforts to prosecute offenders in mining and land grabbing cases, taking on the Indonesian government and powerful corporate interests. In recognition of her tireless activism to defend the rights of her community, Jull received the N-Peace Award from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2015.