Tag Archive | Irwandi Yusuf

PRESS RELEASE: Walhi makes historic legal intervention as rogue palm oil company tries to sue Governor of Aceh over cancellation of controversial palm oil permit in Tripa Peat Swamp Forest

PRESS RELEASE

14/12/2012 – FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION

Walhi makes historic legal intervention as rogue palm oil company tries to sue Governor of Aceh over cancellation of controversial palm oil permit in Tripa Peat Swamp Forest

[Banda Aceh]  In an unprecedented legal move, on Thursday 13th December in the Administration court of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, Walhi Aceh (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) motioned to join the Governor of Aceh Province as a co-defendent in a lawsuit brought against him by palm oil company PT. Kallista Alam, whose controversial palm oil concession in the Tripa peat swamp forests of Aceh he recently cancelled after law courts found clear legal infractions in the issuance of its plantation permit.

“WALHI’s move to intervene like this is the first ever of its kind in Indonesia, and serves to emphasise just how serious we are in our support for the Governor’s strong stance in upholding the law against illegal permits in the province”, stated Walhi Aceh Executive Director, TM Zulfiker. “In regard to the intervention”, he continued, “WALHI indeed have a serious interest in this case and wish to be represented in court. We must ensure the Administrational Court in Banda Aceh fully understands the legal processes that have led to this new case being filed, in particular the course of events that followed after Walhi won the appeal in its case against the company at the Administration Court in Medan, which led directly to the Governor taking action and revoking the company’s permit”.

Luhut MP Pangaribuan, head of the legal team representing PT Kallista Alam, objected to the motion, stating that WALHI Aceh have no interest in the case but Zuhri, the lawyer working for WALHI Aceh, immediately refuted this, stating that  “The motion to join the case is based on the legal precedent and actions of the case filed by WALHI against the previous Governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf, and  the company PT Kalista Alam, for legal irregularities in the now revoked permit. The permit was revoked by Aceh’s current Governor, Zaini Abdullah, after a court order requesting him to do so was issued by the Administration Court in Medan. This is precisely why we wish to stand by that decision and support the Governor for taking the correct legal course of action in revoking the permit”.

Today there are several ongoing legal cases related to the company PT Kallista Alam, as explained by Kamaruddin, a lawyer representing Tripa Community. “Firstly, there was the original case filed by WALHI Aceh against the company and former Governor for the issuance of the illegal permit. In this case, the judges in the administrational court of Medan agreed with WALHI Aceh, that there were indeed a number of legal infractions in the issuance of the permit. It was this decision that resulted  in the current Governor cancelling the permit. Now the company is attempting to appeal this earlier decision with the Supreme Court in Jakarta”.

“Secondly, and in a separate case, PT Kallista Alam is attempting  to sue the new Governor over the permit’s cancellation in the administrational court of Banda Aceh, even though it was revoked in full compliance with the law, as clearly demonstrated by the judges decision in the case described above. It is this new lawsuit in which WALHI is seeking to intervene and join, as a co-defendant standing alongside Governor Zaini Abdullah.”

 “Thirdly, also in a seperate case, the Ministry of Environment and the Attourney Generals Office are taking legal action against the PT Kallista Alam for legal infringements in the field, at the district court of Meulaboh, in West Aceh.”. Kamaruddin went on to explain, “the main problem for all of us is that whilst these lengthy court battles are ongoing, the destruction of the unique Tripa peat swamp forests by Kallista Alam and other companies is continuing unchecked. All of the companies in Tripa are still actively commiting crimes in the field, and PT Kallista seems to be deliberately trying to prolong proceedings and slow down the cases against them”.

As the court was settling for Tuesday’s hearing in Banda Aceh, an angry protest was heard outside the courtroom, “PT Kallista Alam has destroyed Tripa and is selling out our country”, Fery, a protester from the coalition of students and community for Tripa, shouted through a megaphone to a mob of over 50 university students who had gathered, chanting, singing and carrying placards, to affirm their support for Aceh’s Governor and his stance against law breakers.

“It’s blatantly obvious there have been numerous crimes committed in Tripa relating to spatial planning law, environmental law, and forestry plantation law. There have also been clear breaches of the Indonesian Government’s moratorium on new plantations in primary forests and peatlands, which resulted from the billion dollar agreement between Indonesia and Norway”, stated Deddy Ratih, Spatial Planning Campaigner for WALHI Indonesia. “While WALHI is taking action in support of Aceh’s Governor, illegal actions in the field must also be halted by direct intervention of the police and both Provincial and National Government. Even today, despite all the legal wrangling in the courts, canals continue to drain the last of the life from Tripa’s protected peat swamps and PT Kallista Alam is simply playing games, as it tries to prolong and delay implementation of the law. The reality is that every day plantation activities in the field are slowing killing Tripa. All of the companies operating there must be reviewed and have their permits cancelled if they are not in full compliance with the letter of the law. Activities must be stopped and all drainage canals blocked immediately if this critically important and unique ecosystem  is to have any chance of recovery”.

“No matter what the eventual outcomes of the various legal process taking place, it will all be meaningless unless strong and decisive action is taken right now on the ground, all the permits should be revoked immediately and work begin to restore the damaged areas”, he reiterated.

Public information on the appeal lodged by PT Kallista Alam with the Supreme Court is limited, and a decision on whether the appeal will be allowed to proceed or not is considered likely to take place ‘in camera’ (behind closed doors).

For further comment or information please contact:

Deddy Raith – ube.hitar@gmail.com

Spatial Planning Campaigner, Walhi Indonesia (Friends of the Earth Indonesia)

Yuyun Indradiyuyun.indradi@greenpeace.org

Political Campaigner, Greenpeace Indonesia

Aceh Pulls Plug on Kallista Plantation

 

Nurdin Hasan | September 28, 2012

Banda Aceh. Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah has revoked the business permit for a palm oil plantation in Rawa Dipa, a lush forest and peatland region in the province’s Nagan Raya district.

The move to close the estate, which is owned by plantation firm Kallista Alam, was hailed as a victory by environmentalists, who have sought to see the stretch of land protected.

Makmur Ibrahim, the Aceh administration’s legal and public relations bureau head, said that the governor signed the revocation letter on Thursday to comply with a ruling issued by the Medan High Court on Aug. 30, ordering the permit to be pulled.

“It’s not possible to file an appeal on the High Court’s ruling and that’s the basis of [our decision],” Makmur said on Friday. “All of PT Kallista’s activity on the 1,605-hectare plantation must stop. It will be a violation of the law if it continues to operate.”

He added that Aceh’s Forestry and Plantation Agency will monitor the company to ensure that it complies with the order.

The company obtained the permit to open the plantation from then governor Irwandi Yusuf in August 2011.

But the governor’s decision was met with protests by environmental activists who said that the area was the habitat of Sumatran orangutans, which are critically endangered, and other rare animals.

The Aceh chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) dragged the governor to the Aceh state administrative court but the court rejected Walhi’s suit on April 3. Walhi then appealed the ruling to the Medan High Court.

Walhi Aceh praised the governor’s willingness to comply with the law.

“The order from the Medan High Court is clear that the Aceh governor has to revoke the permit for PT Kallista’s 1,605 hectare plantation in Rawa Tripa,” Walhi Aceh director T. Muhammad Zulfikar said. “The Aceh administration has to execute the ruling because if not, it will be in violation of the law.”

Zulfikar said that Rawa Tripa is part of the Leuser Ecosystem Area, which is considered a strategic national zone that is protected.

The permit originally allowed the firm to set up shop in the Tripa peat area, which was within the boundary of a deforestation moratorium area on a map that had been published in 2011. Critics claim that the permit should not have been issued because companies aren’t allowed to do damage to protected areas.

A government-formed task force later concluded that Kallista Alam had violated regulations by turning the swamp forest into a plantation.

http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/nvironment/aceh-pulls-plug-on-kallista-plantation/547143

 

Court grants Walhi appeal, cancels plantation permit in Aceh

Sita W. Dewi | The Jakarta Post

Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah has been instructed to revoke a legally problematic business permit owned by oil company, PT Kallista Alam, which operates in the carbon-rich Tripa peat swamps in Nagan Raya regency, Aceh, by the Medan Administrative Court after granting an appeal filed by the Aceh chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi).

The permit was granted to the company by former Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf on Aug. 25, 2011, contradicting Presidential Instruction No. 10/2011 on the moratorium of new permits in primary forests and peatland conversion areas.

Walhi Aceh’s executive director, Teuku Muhammad Zulfikar, applauded the verdict, which was signed by a panel of judges led by Arpani Mansur on Aug. 30, saying it was an important ruling supporting efforts to protect more than 61,000 hectares of Tripa peatland.

“We urge the Aceh governor to immediately follow up the verdict by revoking the company’s permit, as well as evaluating all permits owned by other oil palm companies operating in the area,” Zulfikar said in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post Digital on Wednesday.

Tripa peat swamp is peatland with a depth of three meters or more, meaning it is protected under a 1990 presidential decree.

PT Kallista Alam is also the subject of an ongoing investigation by the National Police for allegedly illegally burning the protected peat swamp to convert the area into an oil palm plantation, further threatening the ecosystem of about 200 orangutans that live in the area.

Aceh Integrated Licensing and Services Board reported to the Police

Firman Hidayat | The Globe Journal

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

free translatation by Gunung Gea – original text in Bahasa Indonesia is available here

Banda Aceh – Head of Aceh Integrated Licensing and Service Board (BP2T) M. Yahya was reported to the Aceh Provincial Police in connection with suspected falsification of the data in a position paper prepared for the Governor of Aceh on 27th October 2010. In the said position paper, it was written that the peat depth in the Tripa Peat Swamps was between 0.5 to 1.5 metres.

“As a result of this position paper, the then-Governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf (Governor from 2007 – 2012) issued a ‘permit in principle’ to PT Kallista Alam in the Tripa swamps. Whereas the position paper contradicted PT Kallista Alam’s own 2010 Environmental documentation (UKL/UPL) prepared by their environmental consultation that stated that the peat depth averages over 3 metres (page III-6)” said the spokesperson for the Coaltion Team for Saving the Tripa Swamps (TKPRT), Irsadi Aristora, who was making the report to the police.

He told the Globe Journal in Wednesday (29/8) that investigators from the Ministry of the Environment had also measured the peat depth in Tripa to be greater than 3 metres. The report from TPKRT was recorded by the Aceh Police as report number BL/188/VIII/2012/SPKT, signed by Aipda Khairuddin.

The Globe unsuccessfully tried to contact the head of BP2T, as he did not answer repeated calls to his cell phone. When he finally answered his phone he claimed “I am sorry, I cannot hear you on my cell phone, the Cell phone is not functioning”.

At midday, Gustav Leo from the Public Relations section of the Aceh Police, when contacted, promised to follow-up the report. “I will check the report, I am at ‘SPKT (Sentra Pelayanan Kepolisian Terpadu/Integrated Police Service Centre)’, but it will definitely be followed up” he said.

“It will definitely be followed-up, hopefully members of the public can provide strong evidence” he reiterated.

The Director of Walhi Aceh, TM Zulfikar stated that the head of Aceh Police must pursue this case to its conclusion. The report from TKPRT and the public in the Tripa swamps must follow-up until it goes to court. “Don’t just stop with the report and then there is no follow-up” said Zulfikar, while also saying that Walhi Aceh together with the TKPRT, will continually monitor developments with this case until it goes to court.

The Head of Aceh Police about Tripa Peat Swamp: Not Only Former Governor

TAUFAN MUSTAFA for AtjehPost

BANDA ACEH – Head of the Aceh Police, Inspector General Iskandar Hasan said that his office will summon everyone involved in the case of Tripa Peat Swamp.

“We will see, if involved, anyone, not only the former Governor, will be summoned,” he said to The Atjeh Post after an event Saweu Keude Kupi at Bay Café, Ulee Lheu, Banda Aceh on Friday, May 11, 2012.

Shortly before, Akhiruddin Mahjuddin, Coordinator of Indonesian Anti-Corruption Movement (GeRAK), has been questioning, why the Aceh Police has not been examining the former Governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf, who has been issuing the permit to PT Kalista Alam.

 

“Before the concession permit for PT Kalista Alam was issued by the Governor of Aceh, at that time Irwandi Yusuf, on August 25, 2011, the Aceh Police sent a letter with the number B/173/VIII/2001/Dit Reskrimsus to the Head of BP2T Aceh on August 11, 2011,” said Akhiruddin.

He said that the content of the letter legalised PT Kalista Alam to utilise the particular area, although it is situated within Leuser Ecosystem and without any Plantation Permit. The permit was in the process of accomplishment and for PT Kalista Alam the plantation permit was exceptionally issued by BP2T Aceh.

According to the Inspector General, the problem is not about the land clearing for oil palm plantation, but the clearing by burning.

“The problem is the burning (of the land). The permit was complete. How the process of the permit, this could be investigated at the related office,” he said.

In conjunction with the case, the Directorate of Special Crime of the Aceh Police has been accompanying the joint team of the Ministry of Environment, who conducted field visit to Tripa Peat Swamp several days before.

“The occurring peat fires are now processed by the National Police together with related department. Then they will follow up on this, also for the legal process,” said Iskandar.

The Inspector General hoped that the environmental sustainability of Tripa Peat Swamp will not be distracted in the future.

The case of Tripa Peat Swamp emerged after it was reported by the Community Concerned about Tripa on November 23, 2011 to the National Police. Based on that report, the National Police ordered the Aceh Police through a letter No. B/4472/Ops/XI/2011/Bareskrim dated on November 25, 2011 to conduct investigation.

It’s either orangutans or cheap palm oil

 

An adult male orangutan is captured for re-release after it’s home forest has quickly been cleared for palm oil plantations in Tripa, Aceh Province, 18 April 2012. The Tripa Peatswamp forest supports the highest density of Sumatran Orangutans anywhere on earth, but are still being cleared by palm oil companies who think they are beyond the reach of the law, the situation is urgent and requires action according to Dr Ian Singelton, Director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program. Photo: Paul Hilton

Free Malaysia Today By Kafil Yamin

JAKARTA: When four men were sentenced to eight months in jail in March for the ‘murder’ of orangutans, it was the first time that people associated with Indonesia’s booming palm oil industry were convicted for killing man’s close relations in the primate family.

Conservationists were not happy with the ‘light’ sentences handed down by the court in Kutai Kertanegara district, East Kalimantan, on March 18, to Imam Muktarom, Mujianto, Widiantoro and Malaysian national Phuah Cuan Pun.

“As expected, the sentences were light, much lighter than what the prosecutors demanded. Such punishments will not bring any change to the situation of orangutans,” Fian Khairunnissa, an activist of the Centre for Orangutan Protection, told IPS.

Indonesia’s courts have generally looked the other way as the palm oil industry relentlessly decimated orangutans by destroying vast swathes of Southeast Asia’s rainforests to convert them into oil palm plantations.

In April, a court in Banda Aceh, Sumatra, dismissed a case filed by the Indonesia Environmental Forum (WALHI) against PT Kallista Alam, one of five palm oil firms operating in Tripa, and Irwandi Yusuf, former governor of Aceh province, for the conversion of 1,600 hectares (3,950 acres) of carbon-rich peat forests into palm oil plantations.

The court admonished WALHI saying it should have sought an out-of-court settlement with PT Kallista Alam – which never paused clearing its 1,600-hectare concession, granted in August 2011.

Mysteriously, just before the WALHI case was to be heard in court, numerous fires broke out in the Tripa peat swamps, including in the concession granted to PT Kallista Alam.

Community leaders in Tripa point out that the concessions fly in the face of a presidential moratorium on new permits to clear primary forests, effective in Indonesia since last year as part of a billion dollar deal with Norway to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“The issuance of a license to Kallista is a crime, because it changes the Leuser ecosystem and peat land forests into business concessions,” Kamarudin, a Tripa community spokesman, told IPS.

The Leuser Ecosystem, in the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra, covers more than 2.6 million hectares of prime tropical rain forest and is the last place on earth where Sumatran sub-species of elephants, rhinoceros, tigers and orangutans coexist.

The survival of orangutans, a ‘keystone species’, is critical for the wellbeing of other animals and plants with which they coexist in a habitat.

Orangutan seen as encroachers

A statement released in June by the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme estimated that there are now only 200 of the red-harired great apes left in Tripa compared to about 2,000 in 1990 and said their situation was now ‘desperate’ as result of the fires and clearing operations carried out by palm oil companies.

During the last five years, the oil palm business has emerged as a major force in the Indonesian economy, with an investment value of close five billion dollars on eight million hectares.

Indonesia plans to increase crude palm oil (CPO) production from the current 23.2 million tons this year to 28.4 million tons by 2014. This calls for an 18.7 percent increase in plantation area, according to Indonesia’s agriculture ministry.

But the price of the planned expansion would be further shrinkage of orangutan habitat by 1.6 million hectares because oil companies find it cheaper to burn forests and chase away or kill the orangutans.

“If you find orangutans in palm oil plantations, they are not coming there from somewhere else… they are in their own homes that have been changed into plantations,” said Linda Yuliani, a researcher at the Centre for International Forestry Research.

“But plantation company people see the orangutans as the encroachers,” she said. “Confused orangutans can often be seen wandering in plantations, and with their habitat gone, they forage on young palm trees,” she said.

A joint survey by 19 organisations, including The Nature Conservancy, WWF and the Association of Primate Experts, found that some 750 orangutans died during 2008-2009, mostly because of conflict with human beings.

It has not mattered that Indonesia is one of the signatories to the Convention on Illegal Trade and Endangered Species, which classifies orangutans under Appendix I which lists species identified as currently endangered, or in danger of extinction.

“Clearing peat land also releases huge volumes of carbon dioxide, similar to amounts released during volcanic eruptions,” Willie Smits, a Dutch conservationist who works on orangutan protection, tells IPS.

Enforcement needed

Reckless clearing of peat swamp forests has already turned Indonesia into the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, after the United States and China.

“The government may earn some money from oil palm investment, but there are far bigger losses from environmental destruction,” says Elfian Effendi, director of Greenomics Indonesia. “There is a multiplied effect on the local economy and loss of biodiversity.”

But, even to some conservationists, stopping the oil palm business in Indonesia – which feeds a vast range of industries from fast food and cosmetics to biodiesel – is impractical.

“What is needed is enforcement of schemes that allow the palm oil business and orangutans to co-exist,” Resit Rozer, a Dutch conservationist who runs a sanctuary for rescued orangutans, told IPS.

Palm oil companies that are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a convention to encourage importers to buy only RSPO-certified CPO, see no advantage in the scheme that requires them to set aside a forest block for orangutans within plantations and provide safe corridors for the apes to move from one spot to another.

“US and several European countries still buy non-certified CPO as the RSPO certificate does not gurantee purchase,” Rozer told IPS. “The West told us to practice environmentally-sound business, but they do not buy RSPO-certified CPO because implementation has been delayed till 2015,” Rozer said.

“For companies that have invested in RSPO certification, the delay has been a heavy blow. They feel cheated,” said Rozer who helps palm oil companies in creating orangutan refuges and corridors.

IPS

 

Former Aceh Governor’s story about the Permit in Tripa | The Globe Journal

Article was originally published by in The Globe Journal, free translation by Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP)

Firman Hidayat | The Globe Journal

Wednesday, July 18, 2012 17:30 WIB

Banda Aceh – After WALHI Aceh massively exposed the controversial ‘in principle’ permit, Irwandi Yusuf finally admitted that he regretted issuing it and wants to revoke it. There was pressure on me to issue the ‘in principle’ permit, there was support for it from several people and agencies.

“I regret signing the permit for PT. Kalista Alam,” said the former Governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf.

Irwandi Yusuf’s remorse suggests he was forced to issue the in principle permit. “The permit I issued was no different from one issued by the Regent of Nagan Raya, and there was no influence at all,” said Irwandi Yusuf.

The problem of the permit for PT. Kalista Alam is very unfortunate. Irwandi himself also admitted that he had previously rejected the company’s request many times. “I ‘kicked it aside’ almost for two years, until evaluations eventually appeared from the provincial Forestry Office regarding the Leuser Ecosystem issue and a letter from the Police stating that the company had no legal problems,” said Irwandi convincingly.

“It could actually have been a problem if I had just ignored these letters. I could have been sued in the Administrative Court, since all requirements for the permit appeared to be fulfilled,” he continued.

Still, Irwandi did not simply rely on the supporting recommendations of these others, so he consulted with Aceh Green, and it appeared the Tripa Peat Swamp was not included in the moratorium map issued by President SBY.

Then there was an assessment or analysis by the Provincial Forestry Department regarding the  Leuser Ecosystem, identifying that the utilisation of the area of the Leuser Ecosystem did not preclude this, if there was already an existing permit. “Tripa Peat Swamp is within the Leuser Ecosystem, but there is an exception that already existing permits (i.e. when the Ecosystem was established) must be respected, and what’s more, the official map of the Leuser Ecosystem was only newly made,” said Irwandi Yusuf.

“I only issued an “in principle” permit, with the Regent of Nagan Raya, whilst the concession permit itself comes from the Central Government, which the company itself takes care of,” said Irwandi during his press conference at Rumoh Aceh on Wednesday (18/07) lunchtime.

“I regret that I signed it, but since the Police said there was no problem, and as the Head of the District Parliament in Nagan Raya , Samsuardi (also known as Juragan), and a Chinese person came to see me, and they (Juragan and the Chinese person) said that they wanted to accommodate 30% plasma with the plantation, since, according to them, many community members from Nagan Raya are still unemployed, I then signed the permit,” stressed Irwandi Yusuf.

Actually, the Tripa problem lies with the company, PT Kallista Alam. According to the former Governor of Aceh, they still do not have a full concession permit, but the company has already started work. “If they don’t yet have the concession permit and they are already working that is clearly wrong,” he repeated.

“I would really like to revoke that permit letter,” said Irwandi Yusuf, closing the interview.

Revoke All Permits

The Coalition Team to Save the Tripa Swamps (TKPRT) urged the current Governor of Aceh, Zaini Abdullah, to send a recommendation to related Ministries regarding the withdrawal of all concession permits in the Tripa Peat Swamp, Nagan Raya District.

TKPRT’s spokesperson, Irsadi is waiting to see if Aceh’s Governor is brave enough to apply an immediate moratorium on all activities by concessions in the Tripa Peat Swamp and then revoke all permits within Tripa.

Irsadi has also expressed sincere appreciation to the UKP4 (REDD+ Task Force) in Jakarta, who have already written to the Governor of Aceh to revoke the permits of two of the problem companies, namely PT. Kallista Alam and PT. Surya Panen Subur-2.

“It would be far better to cancel all the concession permits in the Tripa Peat Swamps,” emphasized Irsadi.

footnote:

Provincial Forestry Office is Provincial Branch of Department of Forestry on National Level

Leuser Ecosystem Management Authority is Provincial Government Agency managing Leuser Ecosystem

Graft suspected in palm oil conversion

This photo made available on June 29th, 2012 showing numerous illegally lit fires continue to rage the peat swamp forest of Tripa, SOCP/YEL (Handouts/Editorial use ONLY)

Sita W. Dewi, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh

Tue, July 10 2012, 9:18 AM
Paper Edition | Page: 4

Smoke rising from several spots scattered throughout more than 61,000 hectares of carbon-rich Tripa peat swamp forests in Nagan Raya regency, Aceh, could be easily seen from a Cessna 208 Caravan aircraft flying low above the area on Thursday last week.

Onboard the airplane were a number of top officials from agencies tasked with investigating a case involving palm oil company PT Kallista Alam, which was alleged to be responsible for the fires that have threatened the ecosystem of about 200 orangutans living in the area.

The case also caught the attention of the global community and has tainted the reputation of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has only recently returned from the Rio +20 Summit where he touted his green initiatives, which include programs like a moratorium on deforestation.

A petition signed by concerned individuals from around the world, questioning the Indonesian government’s ability to halt the environmental destruction at Tripa, have prompted the authorities to take action.

The police, the Environment Ministry and the Forestry Ministry are all on the case, with the Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4) pushing for action.

The UKP4’s visit to the site was part of a move to examine the situation on the ground and collect evidence against the palm oil company.

Technicalities in the law, however, have hamstrung the investigation.

Aerial photographs of the Tripa peat swamp, for example, cannot be used as evidence by the investigation team.

“Based on the Information and Transaction Law, photographs can be only be used as evidence if they are backed up by an official report from the investigation and direct [confirmation and] testimonies from employees from the company who joined the trip,” the Environment Ministry’s investigation division head, Shaifuddin Akbar, said at the Cut Nyak Dien airport in Nagan Raya last week after wrapping up the aerial inspection. PT Kallista Alam’s employees were unavailable to take part in the task force’s investigative fly-over.

Akbar added that the team also had conducted a ground check to complete their investigative report.

Environment Ministry’s head investigator Sudariyono said that his team found strong indications that PT Kallista Alam, had deliberately burned the peat swamp to convert the area to an oil palm plantation.

“First, an aerial view showed a pattern to the burning of the forest, a strong indication that it was planned. Second, we could see that the company had done nothing to put out the fire, let alone implement preventive measures against fire. We found no personnel or fire fighting equipment stationed in the area.

Sudariyono said that all offenses were found in peatland protected by a governmental regulation.

“Our ground check found that Rawa Tripa was a peatland with a depth of three meters or more, meaning that it is protected under a 1990 presidential decree,” Sudariyono said.

He said that the investigation team was expected to file a criminal and civil suit against PT Kallista Alam and seek damages for causing environmental destruction in the area.

National Police director for special crimes Brig. Gen. Gatot Subiyaktoro said that preliminary findings indicated that the company had violated Law No. 18/2004 on plantations by conducting illegal land clearing, burning land and planting oil palms without permits.

He added that the police also found irregularities in the issuance of the plantation’s permit.

Then Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf granted the permit to the company on Aug. 25, 2011, contradicting Presidential Instruction No. 10/2011 on the moratorium for new permits in primary forests and peatland
conversion.

Gatot said that Irwandi, who recently lost the local election in April to Zaini Abdullah, likely broke the law by overstepping his legal authority, as the issuance of such permit only needed approval from a regent.

“To pursue our investigation, we will question experts on plantation and state administration soon,” Gatot said.

The UKP4 has recommended PT Kallista Alam’s permit be revoked.

Representatives from several NGOs, including the Aceh chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), the Aceh Legal Aid Institute, Wetlands International as well as representatives from the Leuser Ecosystem Management Authority (BPKEL), have demanded the government shut down drainage canals in Tripa peatswamp that were used by the company to drain the peat in order to prevent further degradation of the peatland.

The Tripa peat swamp was included in the Forestry Ministry’s latest “Indicative Moratorium Map” of 65,282,006 hectares of natural forests and peatland that are considered off-limits for commercial activities.

The map serves as a guideline for local administrations when issuing licenses for forest clearance for commercial purposes.

Fires in Protected Peat Forest Have Companies Feeling the Heat

Fires continued to be set in Tripa’s peat forestl, 13 June 2012, Aceh province, Sumatra, Indonesia. According to a field team from the coalition of NGO’s to protect Tripa, that visited the area. Fires are continuing to be lit in the highly threatened Tripa Peat Forest for palm oil plantations despite assurances from the Indonesian central government that ‘triple track’ legal action was underway and a small area of the Peat Forest had returned to the moratorium map central to the multibillion agreement between Indonesia and Norway to reduce carbon emission from burning the carbon dense Peat Forests. Photo: Paul Hilton/SOCP/YEL (HANDOUT PHOTO, EDITORIAL USE ONLY)

The Jakarta Globe

Fidelis E. Satriastanti 

The Environment Ministry has found indications of arson in recent fires at the protected Tripa peat forest in Aceh, a senior ministry official said on Sunday.

“It baffles me. We are still investigating, but these fires keep occurring,” said Sudariyono, the ministry’s deputy for legal compliance.

“We have a strong suspicion that the fires are not accidental, judging by how they are shaped. When viewed from above it is very irregular. Also, there doesn’t seem to be a mitigation system, in the sense that no one’s trying to put them out.”

The Tripa swamp is a key habitat of the Sumatran orangutan, a critically endangered species, with 200 individuals believed to be living in the area.

A moratorium map published by the ministry identified Tripa as protected area. Tripa is also part of Leuser Ecosystem, a national strategic area for environmental protection. There is also a law in place that is meant to prohibit the issuance of new concessions on land with peat layers more than three meters deep.

Despite this, two companies, Kallista Alam and Surya Panen Subur 2, received concessions in Tripa.

Kallista’s permit, issued by former Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf, is currently the subject of a legal challenge by activists.

Sudariyono said Surya Panen “was suspected of burning some 1,183 hectares” of land inside the Tripa peat swamp from March 19 to 24 this year.

Kallista, he said, was believed to have burned some 30 hectares of its 1,605-hectare concession in the peat swamp.

The ministry has not concluded its investigation but Sudariyono said his office was already mulling legal action against Kallista and Surya Panen. The companies “could be charged in criminal court over the fires and they could face lawsuits for damaging the forest,” he said.

The Environment Ministry has questioned witnesses from the two companies, nongovernmental organizations, residents and local government offices.

Illegal Indonesian fires threaten great apes

Sydney Morning Herald

Michael Bachelard

This photo made available on June 29th, 2012 showing numerous illegally lit fires continue to rage the peat swamp forest of Tripa, SOCP/YEL (Handouts/Editorial use ONLY)

THE carbon-rich peat forests of northern Sumatra are burning again as palm oil companies break Indonesian law to clear the land for their plantations.

Environmental groups have warned that the local population of critically endangered orang-utans are ”doomed” unless the fires are stopped.

Also, smoke from the burning is at times engulfing cities in Malaysia and Thailand, prompting doctors in Kuala Lumpur recently to warn residents with respiratory problems to wear masks.

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Photographs from the Tripa peat forest in Aceh show widespread burning, which the head investigator of the Indonesian environment ministry, Syarifudin Akbar, estimates now covers almost 2000 hectares.

”This is a criminal case because the law says it’s a crime to open a land by burning,” Mr Akbar told the Herald.

Local environmentalists say the fires are lit by palm oil companies and threaten a population of about 200 orang-utans in this area – one of the densest populations in the world.

More than 3000 of the great apes once lived in the area that is being cleared. Now just 7000 live on the whole island of Sumatra, which has been hit in recent years with uncontrolled clearing of primary forests for palm oil plantations.

The latest fires were detected by satellites monitoring fire activity last week, and confirmed by field staff from local environmental groups.

The environment department, the national police and the government’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) taskforce are investigating.

A spokesman for the REDD taskforce, Achmad Santosa, agreed the forest burning was ”an issue of law enforcement” and that it was ”exactly the job of the REDD taskforce, that is to ensure the enforcement of the law”.

The head of the REDD taskforce, Kuntoro, visited Aceh yesterday to speak to the governor and check the situation on the ground.

But Kamaruddin, a lawyer for the Tripa community, said the investigations now under way were ”proving to be too little too late”, and called for the President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to get involved.

”These companies simply have to be ordered to stop [clearing] immediately and that order to be strictly enforced, otherwise the peat forests and inhabitants of Tripa will be lost forever,” he said.

Dr Yudhoyono has won global applause for pro-conservation statements, the most recent at the Rio+20 summit, where he said: ”deforestation is a thing of the past” and that ”losing our tropical rainforests would constitute the ultimate national, global and planetary disaster”.

But this has not stopped the annual ”burning season” of forests in Borneo and Sumatra – nor the smoke haze over Asia – as companies take advantage of dry weather to prepare the ground for new plantations.

”Despite all these words and statements and speeches about conserving orang-utans and peat lands and reducing carbon emissions … the evidence is there has been no change,” said the director of conservation at the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, Ian Singleton.

Part of the area being burnt is owned by the palm oil company PT Kallista Allam, which was granted a concession now under challenge in the Indonesian courts. The former Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf said he had granted the concession as a wake-up call to the international community over its inaction on a carbon pricing mechanism in Indonesian forests.

However, a company spokesman told the Herald that the fire had blown into their area from a neighbouring concession.

The owner of that land, PT Agro Maju Raya, could not be contacted.

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