Answers to our petition
Our online petition “Respect basic human rights in Masoala, Madagascar” has up to date been signed by 314 people from around the world. After we had received 300 signatures, we informed the deputy of the district of Maroantsetra, the Director of the Masoala National Park and the head of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Madagascar about the petition. Within a short time we received detailed answers by the park director and by the head of WCS Madagascar.
The park director denies in her answer that anything should ever have taken place that was not compliant with the relevant laws, and she emphasises that the park management has never received any complaints from local people. She admonishes us for having spread false information. She also writes that upon having heard of our petition, two special “missions” were sent out into the field, one including a high-ranking government representative (the Chef Cantonnement Forestier du District de Maroantsetra) and that there were no complaints whatsoever either.
In this answer is hidden the well-known tactic of intimidation. A lot of people in the countryside in Madagascar are generally speaking afraid of the state as it rarely brings anything good for them. This is why only few would dare to voice, as individuals, complaints in front of an official delegation such as was sent to investigate our concerns. The letter of complaint addressed to the Deputy was, tellingly, not signed by any individuals other than the president of the political relevant political unit. It was a collective complaint.
The head of WCS Madagascar confirms in her answer that there have been complaints by local populations concerning the park’s boundary in various places over the past years. She also confirms that the present zoning map, which defines 80% of the peninsula as not usable for agricultural purposes, leaves little room for local people. She informs us that the zoning plan will expire this year and will thus be reconsidered, and the expresses her hope that this will solve the present conflicts. She emphasises, however, that WCS is only a financial and technical partner of the Masoala National Park and that it therefore is not in a position to make any decisions.
We will stay tuned to the issue that the people in the village of Marofototra complained about in their letter to the Deputy and which gave rise to our petition, and we hope that their needs and rights will finally be taken seriously!