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
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REDD TASK FORCE URGES ACEH GOVERNMENT TO TAKE FURTHER ACTION ON RAWA TRIPA CASE
Jakarta, 18 July – The Head of the Presidential Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight (UKP4) and Chairman of the REDD+ Task Force, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, continues to follow up and monitor authorities in Aceh with concrete measures on developments related to his letter dated 3 July 2012 to the Governor of Aceh requesting the revocation of the licenses and permits of two companies whose activities are found to be in violation of several legal provisions.
UKP4 has been leading the strong government initiative since April 2012 in investigating the case of illegal land clearing through systematic and deliberate forest fires by two companies in the area of Rawa Tripa, close to the globally renowned Leuser Ecosystem Area and home to protected peat lands and endangered bio-diversity. Several NGOs as well as members of the public had also raised this issue and petitioned the government to take appropriate action.
Investigations carried out under the directions of UKP4 and REDD+ Task Force in April 2012 clearly established that violations had taken place under Law number 18/2004 concerning Plantation; Law number 32/2009 concerning Living Environment Protection and Management; and Law number 26/2007 concerning Spatial Planning as well as Presidential Decree number 32/1990 concerning Protected Area Management.
Letters were sent to the Ministry of Environment and the Head of the Indonesian National Police demanding thorough investigations. These investigations further revealed several irregularities in the issuance of permits as well as blatant violation of several laws governing the conversion of land use. On 3 July, a team from UKP4/REDD+ Task Force comprising the Heads of the Working Groups on Legal Review and Moratorium Monitoring travelled to Aceh to hold meetings with provincial officials. They also conducted aerial surveys of the forest fires which confirmed that the two companies continued to act not only in gross violation of the applicable laws but also in complete disregard for conservation of endangered bio-diversity and concerned public opinion.
A letter dated 3 July from the Head of the Presidential Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight (UKP4) and Chairman of the REDD+ Task Force, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto to the Governor of Aceh Province in Nangroe Aceh Darussalam, Dr. Zaini Abdullah, requesting the revocation of Plantation and Cultivation Permit (IUP-B) issued to Surya Panen Subur (PT SPS 2) and Permit Letter Number 525/BP2T/5322/2011 dated 25 August 2011 issued in the name of Kalista Alam (PT KA) was handed over to the Regional Secretary (SEKDA) during this visit.
In a bid to sensitize the provincial authorities to the various provisions in the Moratorium Decree that is part of the UKP4 and REDD+ Task Force mandate, the following six aspects were also outlined in a list presented to the provincial authorities:
1. The Moratorium is intended for all activities concerning land-based permits in Rawa Tripa to prevent degradation and to find comprehensive solution for economic, conservation and social needs.
2. Conducting scientific research or comprehensive inventory to identify the whole bio-psychical characteristics in Rawa Tripa including hydrological integrity, chemical concentration, as well as its mineral soil. This research is required, among others, to define area delineation which is targeted as the protected area (core peat area) as well as for the use of buffer zone.
3. Based on the complete understanding, it is necessary to accelerate the finalization of Spatial Planning for Leuser Ecosystem area, in particular Rawa Tripa. This Spatial Planning will be adopted by and/or adjusted to the ongoing development of Spatial Planning of Aceh Province.
4. Collaboratively preparing a plan for comprehensive protection and management in Rawa Tripa Area so as to achieve a win-win solution in the context of conservation, economy, and social needs. For example, the existing plantation activity in the area must be halted and moved to another suitable land (land swap), or the activity is allowed to run provided that their business concept is changed into ecosystem restoration, for instance, by replacing palm oil with ramin and jelutung (Dyera Costulata) which are more suitable with the swampy peat ecosystem.
5. Strengthening the ongoing legal measures (criminal, administrative, and civil) so as to get swift conclusions. Providing backup to comprehensive legal reviews particularly of the issued permits for Leuser Ecosystem Area – specifically the Rawa Tripa area.
6. Regain public trust in the government, such as by conducting corrective measures for the practices committed by the security apparatus in the field, for example by taking stern measure against unscrupulous apparatus/Indonesian Military for intimidating the community and asking the police/Indonesian Military stations to move out from the concession area (company).
This cooperation and collaboration at the national and provincial level is hoped to set a positive precedent and send a strong signal that there will be zero tolerance for violations endangering the environment and the country’s rich natural resources and bio-diversity. UKP4/REDD+ Task Force will continue to review other permits that may have been improperly issued and also monitor activities of the license or permit holders to ensure that such acts are not repeated.
For further information please contact
Chair of Communication and Stakeholders Engagement Working Group
REDD+ Task Force