“Now is the time for action not words here in Tripa. To destroy one of the last great areas of peat swamp forest in Sumatra is an act of criminal vandalism.” That was written in 2008, but if anything, it’s even more relevant today than it was then.
While the destruction of the Tripa peat swamp forest has continued since 2008, in recent months the campaign to stop the destruction has increased in intensity, focussed on a company called PT Kalista Alam. As a result, high level government officials are taking an interest in what’s happening in Tripa. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the head of Indonesia’s REDD+ task force, recently said that “Opening a plantation inside a protected swamp area has clearly broken the law.”
Last week, H Azwir, the head of Nagan Raya Regency, demanded that PT Kalista Alam stop clearing peat swamp forest in Tripa. He said that the company did not have permission to convert the forest to an oil palm plantation.
Elfian Effendi, head of Greenomics Indonesia, is sceptical about whether Azwir can revoke the company’s permit. He told mongabay.com that,
“The acting regent has the power to ask the company to stop the operation based on certain considerations, especially legal aspects. However, the acting regent has no power to revoke the permit because PT Kalista Alam’s permit was issued by the Aceh Governor.”
While companies clearing the Tripa peat swamp have so far operated with legal impunity, farmers who remove as little as a piece of wood from a plantation face arrest. On 13 May 2012, the Jakarta Globe reported that a farmer in in Kendal, Central Java, has been detained for three months after he sold a piece of wood that he found in a plantation. He faces a ten year sentence and a huge fine. He sold the wood for US$65.
For German speakers, journalist Norbert Lübbers from NDR visited Tripa and his report, “The Expulsion of the Orangutans”, was broadcast last week (click on the image below to watch the film).
PT Kalista Alam declined to be interviewed. Timbas P. Ginting from GAPKI (the Indonesia Palm Oil Association, whose slogan is “Develop Indonesia with Palm Oil”) explains that,
“Maybe there are one or two companies whose operations are not completely clean. But they are the exception, you cannot make the entire industry responsible. Most of them follow the law.”
Regardless of whether or not it is true that most companies follow the law, when a company does break the law, it must be held responsible. As Ian Singleton, the Director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, points out,
“The existing laws must be applied consistently. That’s the only thing that helps. You have to make them aware that there are laws. And if they break they law they’ll be prosecuted!”
There is little doubt that clearing the Tripa peat swamp forest is “an act of criminal vandalism”. The question is what action the Indonesian authorities take now, first to hold those responsible for the destruction accountable and second to prevent the same sort of destruction from happening elsewhere in the country.
Last week two press releases came out about Tripa. The first is from the Coalition to Save Tripa Peat Forest and focusses on revoking the palm oil permits and criminal prosecution of those responsible for destroying the forest. The second is from Greenomics Indonesia and focusses on the breach of the moratorium on forest concessions.
National Police Investigation in Tripa requires palm oil permits immediately revoked and criminal prosecution to avoid greater embarrassment to Indonesian credibility.
COALTION TO SAVE TRIPA PEAT FOREST
[06/05/2012 – JAKARTA / Indonesia]
The National Police Investigation in Tripa must result in permits revoked and criminal prosecution to avoid greater embarrassment to Indonesian credibility.
After months of inaction allowing the accelerated destruction of the remaining forests of Tripa Peat Swamps, Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and National Police have finally begun a field investigation into crimes being committed in the Nagan Raya District of Aceh Province, this was followed by a field inspection by The Head of Ministry of Forestry today.
The investigation team arrived in Banda Aceh Thursday, and today is returning to Jakarta from the Tripa Peat Swamps after collecting evidence, including indications of the use of fire for land clearing, the clearing of deep peat lands, and violation of National Spatial Planning, all illegal under Indonesia law.
Zulkifli Hasan, The Minister of Forestry addressing a crowd of concerned community in Ujung Tanjung village today said “Tripa should be protected and restored, but this is not within my jurisdiction. But because I support the request to save Tripa, I will do what I can to make sure community request is fulfilled by relevant Authority, Bupati and Governor”.
The Coalition for the Protection of the Tripa Peat Swamps who initiated legal action to protect Tripa in November last year, strongly welcomes the field investigation, and supporting statements from the Head of Forestry, but warns actions, not words are needed to protect and restore Tripa.
“For the investigation to have any relevant meaning it must result in the revoking of permits, criminal prosecution of palm oil companies who continue to operate outside the law, Government Officials who violate National Spatial Planning Law, the restitution of land, and the restoration of the protected peat forest” said Kamaruddin, the lawyer representing local community members who reported environmental crimes being committed in Tripa to the National Police in November last year.
He continued: “We have witnessed the collusion of Provincial Police with the Palm Oil companies who operate in the Tripa Peat Swamps. Over 5 months ago a directive was sent by the National Police to the Aceh Provincial Police ordering them to investigate the illegal issuance of permit number No. 525/BP2T/ 5322/2011 which very clearly was in violation of National Spatial Planning Law 26/2007. Breaking National Spatial Planning Law is a criminal offence for any level of Government or Company and violations must be prosecuted.”
“Until the arrival of the National REDD+ Taskforce, the Ministry of the Environment, Attorney General’s Office and National Police, the local Aceh Police made NO effort to investigate. It is only now due to the presence of leading National Indonesian Authorities that any investigation is taking place, but it must not fall into the same trap of collusion as displayed by local authorities”.
“The multi-stake holder investigation team has now also become witness to crimes committed and poorly attempted deception from the companies first hand”. Said Deddy Raith, Forest Campaigner for Walhi (Friends of the Earth Indonesia). “The team witnessed the illegal clearing taking place inside the Nationally Protected Leuser Ecosystem, and been privy to the lies and misinformation from the palm oil companies”. He continued.
“The real test is now how much more illegal destruction the investigation team accept. The companies must immediately be forced to stop work and close the canals draining and degrading the ecosystem in Tripa. National Police must take over the handling of the case and rapidly work towards the criminal prosecution of all violators of crimes in Tripa”.
“For National Police and investigators not to take over now they have evidence, it will be suspected they have colluded with Aceh Police and also under the control of the companies, there is too much at stake to allow this investigation to fail.”
“Tripa is a litmus test for the legitimacy of the rule of law in Indonesia because if, in the face of such blatant and highly reported illegality, the Indonesia government does not take decisive action, it is as much as an acknowledgment that enforcement is selective and the laws are not worth the paper they are written on”. Deddy concluded.
For further media comment, please contact:
Walhi / Friends of the Earth Indonesia Forest Campaigner:
Mobile: +62 81250 8077 57
Acehnesse Lawyer representing Community and Environment in Tripa Case
Mobile: +62 8116 7001 18
Press statement in support of revision of PT Kalista Alam’s palm oil plantation concession in Moratorium Indicative Map
Supporting the Requests of the Chairman of the Indonesia REDD+ Taskforce to the Minister of Forestry and the Ministry of Forestry to the National Land Agency
(Jakarta, 10 May 2012) – The letter of 18 April 2012 from Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the chairman of the Indonesia REDD+ Taskforce, to the Minister of Forestry regarding the updating of the status of PT Kalista Alam’s palm oil plantation concession on the Moratorium Indicative Map and the Ministry of Forestry’s response to the said letter are noteworthy as they reflect the extent to which Indonesia’s forestry sector moratorium is being implemented. The moratorium was launched by President Yudhoyono on 20 May 2011.
Greenomics Indonesia is of the view that these two letters are of major significance as regards the updating of the said Moratorium Indicative Map.
First of all, let us consider the letter from the chairman of the Indonesia REDD+ Taskforce to the Minister of Forestry, which commences with a chronology concerning the licensing and status of the PT Kalista Alam concession area as shown on the Moratorium Indicative Map. The sequence of events set out in the said chronology is as follows: 1) On 25 August 2011, the Governor of Aceh issued a palm oil plantation license to PT Kalista Alam covering 1,605 hectares in the Rawa Tripa Aceh area; 2) the said area, as mapped by Minister of Forestry Decree No. 323/2011 (dated 17 June 2011), comes within the area covered by the moratorium map; and 3) the PT Kalista Alam concession is not included in the revised Moratorium Indicative Map adopted by virtue of Minister of Forestry Decree No. 7416/2011 (dated 22 November 2011). The exclusion of the PT Kalista Alam concession was based on confirmation by the National Land Agency (BPN) that Land Title Rights (HGU) had been granted in respect of the concession.
The letter from the chairman of the Indonesia REDD+ Taskforce then stated that the Indonesia REDD+ Taskforce had received complaints regarding this situation, and had in consequence conducted a field investigation on 1-3 April 2012, during which it was found that: 1) the 1,605 hectares of the PT Kalista Alam were not subject to HGU granted in the name of PT Kalista Alam or any other company; and 2) PT Kalista Alam had been issued with a Location Permit by the Regent of Nagan Raya – the said permit was valid for 3 years and expired on 5 February 2011.
The letter then pointed out that the findings of the Indonesia REDD+ Taskforce had been verified with the BPN on 12 April 2012, and the BPN had confirmed the findings.
Regarding land conditions on the ground, the letter said that its field investigations had found that part of the PT Kalista Alam concession had been planted with palms and other parts were ready for planting, while the remainder of the concession was still under forest cover. The Indonesia REDD+ Taskforce then pointed out that based on PT Kalista Alam’s environmental management and monitoring documents (UKL/UPL), the bulk of the concession consisted of peatland. The letter from the chairman of the Indonesia REDD+ Taskforce was accompanied by maps, photographs and relevant documents.
In conclusion, the chairman of the Indonesia REDD+ Taskforce asked the Minister of Forestry to study the matter in the light of the presidential instruction on the moratorium, and to reincorporate the PT Kalista Alam concession as moratorium land.
It is also interesting to study the response of the Director General of Planology – who signed the Moratorium Indicative Map on behalf of the Minister of Forestry – to the letter from the chairman of the Indonesia REDD+ Taskforce, having regard to the Director General’s letter of 4 May 2012 to the Head of the Head of National Land Agency, which was copied to, among other recipients, the Minister of Forestry and the chairman of the Indonesia REDD+ Taskforce.
In the said letter, it is stated that the final discussions on the first revision of the Moratorium Indicative Map were held on 18 November 2011. Among those attending the said discussions were representatives of the UKP4 (Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development), Ministry of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture, the National Land Certification Coordinating Board (Bakosurtanal) and the BPN. Following the final discussions, Minister of Forestry Decree No. 7416/2011 (on the first revision of the Moratorium Indicative Map) was issued on 22 November 2011.
In the Director General’s letter, it was stated that, according to the letter from the chairman of the Indonesia REDD+ Taskforce, verification with the BPN had confirmed that no HGU had been issued in respect of the PT Kalista Alam concession area. The Director General’s letter then pointed out that there were differences in the data that had been received by the Ministry of Forestry from the BPN at the time the revised Moratorium Indicative Map was being prepared, and the data that had been supplied by the BPN to the UKP4.
In the light of this, the Director General sought clarification of all of the relevant licensing data and information supplied from the BPN for use in the preparation of the first revision of the Moratorium Indicative Map, and in particular the data on the PT Kalista Alam concession, as input for the preparation of the second revision of the Moratorium Indicative Map, which is due to be issued this month (May 2012).
Greenomics Indonesia views the purport of these two letters as follows:
- The Ministry of Forestry wishes to confirm that the excising of the PT Kalista Alam concession from the Moratorium Indicative Map has a valid basis, namely, data supplied by the BPN. In reality, the draft first revision of the Moratorium Indicative Map was determined following discussions with a variety of government-related parties, such as the Indonesia REDD+ Taskforce/UKP4, BPN, Ministry of Agriculture, etc., prior to being legally adopted by virtue of Minister of Forestry Decree No. 7416/2011 (dated 22 November 2011).
- The acknowledgement by the Ministry of Forestry that there were differences in the data on the PT Kalista Alam concession supplied to the Ministry by the BPN and that supplied by the BPN to the Indonesia REDD+ Taskforce gives rise to serious question marks over the credibility and quality of the overall data used in the Moratorium Indicative Map, especially given that the Ministry of Forestry has requested confirmation of all of licensing data and information from the BPN, not just the data that is relevant to PT Kalista Alam.
- Strangely, in respect of the excising of 4.8 million hectares of peatland from the first revision of the Moratorium Indicative Map (by virtue of of Minister of Forestry Decree No. 7416/2011), the Ministry of Forestry Decree claimed that this revision was based on a field survey. However, the PT Kalista Alam case clearly shows that the quality or comprehensiveness of this field survey is in serious doubt, particularly as regards the definition of the term “field survey” as employed by the Ministry of Forestry Decree.
- As regards the request by the Ministry of Forestry that the BPN clarify all licensing data and information that is being used in the preparation of the second revision to the Moratorium Indicative Map, which is due to be issued this month (May 2012), the question that immediately comes to mind is whether in fact it will be possible to clarify all this data and information in the time available? This is a fundamental question, and is likely to give rise to serious doubts over the accuracy of the second revision to the Moratorium Indicative Map.
In the light of the above discussion, Greenomics Indonesia fully supports:
- The request by the chairman of the Indonesia REDD+ Taskforce to the Minister of Forestry to restore the status of the PT Kalista Alam concession to moratorium land, and for this to be confirmed in the second revision to the Moratorium Indicative Map to be published this May.
- The request of the Ministry of Forestry to the BPN to clarify all of the licensing data and information supplied by the BPN as this data and information is crucial to the credibility and quality of the second revision to the Moratorium Indicative Map.
For further information please contact:
Executive Director of Greenomics Indonesia