Photo Credit : Paul Hilton / Forest, Nature and Environment Aceh
[MEDAN, NORTH SUMATRA] A large demonstration initiated by controversial palm oil company Pt Kalista Alam, who is accused of illegally destroying some of the world’s most important remaining orangutan habitat on the west coast of Sumatra, has disrupted the Meulaboh district court today where the Indonesian Ministry of Environment is prosecuting the company for environmental crimes. The potentially precedent-setting case has received international attention and is being monitored closely by NGOs, scientists, the government and industry alike.
The court was temporarily delayed as an estimated 150 palm oil workers, who arrived by busses believed to be paid by Pt Kalista Alam, conducted a noisy demonstration before the court, demanding the court find in favour of the controversial company. The same company had one of its palm oil concessions cancelled in September 2012, after administrational courts found the permit had been granted illegally, and last week its assets were frozen by the civil court as its process draws to an expected close. The final hearing has now been scheduled for December 5th where now the judges are expected to deliver a final ruling.
“PT Kallista Alam is one of several palm oil companies illegally burning forests on deep peat within the Leuser Ecosystem during the last few years” Said Dr Ian Singleton, Director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, speaking at a packed media event outside a major international RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) conference in Medan earlier today. “We congratulate the Indonesian Ministry of Environment on its action against PT Kallista Alam, but also remind people that a potentially devastating new spatial plan being proposed by the Provincial Government still threatens huge swathes of Aceh’s forests and their incredibly unique biodiversity, in addition to Aceh’s people and their economic livelihoods. If approved, this new plan is likely to lead to an upsurge of new legal cases due to the massive increase in environmental damage it will undoubtedly cause.”
“If the new spatial plan goes through it will be the the end of the Sumatran Elephant” Dr Singleton concluded.
“There can only be one word to describe the situation for the Leuser Ecosytem, and it’s emergency.” warned Kamaruddin SH, an Acehnese lawyer who represented communities in Tripa with their complaints against PT Kallista Alam. “The Leuser Ecosystem is a Nationally Strategic Area protected for its Environmental Function, It is currently illegal for any district, provincial or national leader to issue permits for palm oil, mining or any other activity that would degrade the environmental function of the Leuser Ecosystem, but powerful business lobby is currently trying to undo this, not to support community, but to line their pockets with the assets of Aceh. Todays show of intimidation by Pt Kalista Alam outside the court in Meulaboh is just one example of many companies attempting to intimidate the legal and political processes of Aceh, it deserves close scrutiny from anti corruption and legal agencies.
Landscape planning and GIS specialist, Graham Usher, showed satellite information and data analysis that highlighted the extreme sensitivity of Aceh’s environment. “Much of Aceh’s remaining forests are on steeply sloping terrain, that should be off limits to development under existing spatial planning regulations. Clearing forests and building roads in such areas is simply not safe, and potentially disastrous.
“What will happen if these forests are cleared is very clear, and easy to predict. We will see a collapse of the ecosystem, and the loss of the environmental benefits they provide to Aceh’s people. This will lead to food security problems in the future, in addition to a huge increase in flash floods, erosion and landlsides. It’s not rocket science”, he stressed. “it’s simply cause and effect. To open new roads and exploitive industrial concessions in the heart of Aceh will only result in even further destruction, and lead to a rash of new, entirely avoidable, social conflicts. It’s not only unique biodiversity that will suffer, Aceh’s people will suffer greatly as well!”
“Aceh is currently suffering from environmental anarchy, there is next to no law enforcement, and local elites are left to take what they want without monitoring or fear of legal consequences.”
“The community of Aceh feels that promises have been broken” stated TM Zulfikar, former Chairman of Friends of the Earth, Aceh. While many supported Governor Zaini in his election, there is now increasing frustration and anger being expressed towards his administration. “If we’d known Aceh was going to be carved up, cut down, and sold to the highest bidder most would probably have voted differently.
“Recently the Aceh Government told us at a public meeting that there is no budget left for the development of the Province’s spatial planning and that it therefore needs to be approved and ratified before the end of December. But they have still not completed any environmental sensitivity analysis and key data and information has failed to be shared. I seriously worry what the Government will do in the next two months. If things happen as we hear, he will forever be recorded in history as the Governor who returned Aceh to social conflict and environmental destruction.” Concluded Mr Zulfikar.
Gemma Tillack with Rainforest Action Network called on international consumer companies who use palm oil in their products to demand that their suppliers verifiably guarantee that the oil they supply is not connected to rainforest destruction like that taking place in Tripa. “Tripa and the Leuser Ecosystem are globally important areas. It is imperative that consumer companies take responsibility for the fact that Conflict Palm Oil like that produced at the expense of the Tripa peat swamp is making its way into the global marketplace. Companies like the “Snack Food 20” targeted by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) urgently need to engage with their supply chains and implement truly responsible palm oil procurement policies that demand palm oil be produced without contributing to rainforest destruction, climate pollution or human rights abuses.”
For further information please contact:
Dr Ian Singleton
Conservation Director, Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP)
Landscape Sensitivity Analyst, PanEco Foundation
Aceh Communications Officer, Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL)
Lawyer for Tripa Community Coalition
Senior Agribusiness Campaigner, Rainforest Action Network
Banda Aceh – In a meeting at Hermes Palace Hotel in Banda Aceh on July 4, the Coalition for the Protection of Tripa (TKPRT) urged the UKP4 Team that came to hear directly about the issues related to the case of Tripa Peat Swamp caused by the issuance of the Governor Permit No. 525/BP2T/5322/2011 dated on August 25, 2011 regarding Plantation Permit for PT. Kalista Alam in the village of Pulo Kruet, Nagan Raya District, Aceh Province.
The meeting was attended by journalists, academicians from Unsyiah, local community and NGOs members of TKPRT as well as team for Jakarta consisting of UKP4, REDD+ Task Force, Crime Division of the National Police, Staff of MoE, Banda Aceh Legal Aid organization and Government officials from BPKEL.
Adnan NS, on behalf of the Tripa community and YEL, complaint about the sluggish law enforcement process in this case. This contributes to accelerated destruction of the ecosystem of Tripa Peat Swamp. Similar statement was addressed by Halim G regarding the increasing pressure felt on the field during the case of Tripa Peat Swamp, especially towards local community leaders, among others Ibduh, who was intimidated by the military in Darul Makmur Sub district. The pressure towards Ibduh came from third party through cellular phone. The military official introduced as DANRAMIL (Sub district Military Commander) of Darul Makmur has called Ibduh over his cellular phone to come to the Sub district Military Headquarter and started there with interrogation related to Ibduh’s report to the Central Police in Jakarta.
Firmed statement has been addressed by the Executive Director of WALHI Aceh, TM Zulfikar, to the Task Force’s team concerning the weak law enforcement that reflects the rule of the blade: dull on top and sharp at the bottom, which also means that the real actor is still untouched. National economic development, which should have focused on the welfare of the community, turned out to be more for the favour of big companies’ economic welfare. In fact, in the efforts to achieve 26% emission reduction created more emotions in its implementation.
The spokesperson of TKPRT hoped that the team of the Task Force and the UKP4 currently working in the case of Tripa to not only stand still during the investigation process. It is clear that the team, as published in the REDD Task Force’s press release of April 13, 2012, has identified 3 violations of the laws through the issuance of the permit with the most important note stating that the law has to be enforced. From the findings of the Task Force, there are 3 violations of the Laws No. 18/2004 on Plantation, No. 32/2009 on the Protection and the Management of the Environment and No. 26/2007 on the Spatial Planning in conjunction with the Presidential Decree No. 32/1990 on the Management of Protected Areas.
“Based on these finding, we hope that there will be prosecution or conviction of the (former) Governor of Aceh and his cronies involved in the issuance of the permit, as it was published in the media. TKPRT’s investigation identified 24 violations of the permit to legal regulations, illegal activities as well as abuse of authority and official position. We therefore ask the team to apply corruption clause to incur deterrent effect and to avoid other officials to do the same error,” said the spokesperson of TKPRT, Irsadi Aristora.
Listening to the critics and inputs from the attendants, the team replied to each of the question started by the staf of MoE explaining that the letter from KPU4 to the MoE to be immediately responded, proven by their visit (to Tripa) in the beginning of April. “Currently, the team of MoE have identified the indications of 2 legal violations: 1. Crime against the environment; 2. Civil rights violation re the loss caused by environmental destruction through clearing by burning,” said the staf of MoE.
“Currently we are applying the full package together with the General Attorney in looking directly at the forest fires of both companies SPS2 and KA. At the beginning of May directly with an expert from IPB, Basuki Wasis, we intensively interrogated witnesses from the company, Government Offices, National Land Office and Ministry of Forestry as well as community. The process is still ongoing, especially related to the EIA and it hopefully will be finalised as soon as possible, and we need support from quickly and carefully,” he added.
Insp. Gen. Gatot from the Criminal Division of the National Police addressed that investigation is currently carried out by the Police at province level in Aceh with direct backup from the Central Police. At the field level, we have identified that the company has cleared the area prior to the issuance of the plantation permit. “Currently we are about to investigate through witnesses and plantation expert, which we requested to send 3 experts, but still not realised. The plants have been planted before the issuance of plantation permit that was then issued in August 2011, even there was irregularities related to the permit,” he said.
Deputy VI of UKP4, Mas Achmad Santosa, through R. Samadji concluded that there are 6 points to be addressed to the Governor:
- The Spatial Plan of the Leuser Ecosystem to be restructured through a multi-party commitment that will be endorsed from all sides;
- Complete moratorium of the utilisation of Tripa Peat Swamp, through blocking the drainage canals and ceasing peat fires;
- To conduct scientific research on the biodiversity of Tripa Peat Swamp;
- Restoration and rehabilitation of Tripa ecosystem;
- To restore community’s trust in the security officials in Aceh;
- Political will to revoke all palm oil permit within Tripa Peat Swamp;
As delivered to AtjehLINK by the spokesperson of TKPRT, Irsadi Aristora, on Tuesday (10/7).