Harapan Rainforest Project: A letter from Scale Up and Forest Peoples Programme

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On 5 June 2013, the NGOs Scale Up and Forest Peoples Programme wrote to PT REKI, the company running the Harapan Rainforest Project, about PT REKI’s commitment to mediated negotiations as a mechanism to assist affected communities.

The letter follows a series of meetings between Scale Up, Forest Peoples Programme and representatives of PT REKI, most recently in May 2013.

PT REKI has confirmed that it respects the rights of indigenous peoples to give or withhold their free, prior and informed consent on developments that will affect them. However, on its website, Forest Peoples Programme notes that.

To date the Batin Sembilan have not had an effective voice in the management of the scheme and disputes have arisen between the communities and the project managers. Despite promises by project staff to seek a mediated solution based on respect for the peoples’ prior rights, there has been little progress on the ground.

The letter is posted in full below, in English and Bahasa Indonesia. REDD-Monitor looks forward to posting PT REKI’s reply.

5 June 2013

Mr. Effendy Sumardja
President Director
PT Restorasi Ekosistem Konservasi Indonesia (PT REKI)
Dear Pak Effendy,

This is a joint letter to you from two organisations who cooperate on activities in Indonesia to support the rights of forest peoples. Scale Up is based in Riau, and over the last eight years has assisted many communities affected by oil palm and pulpwood plantations to assert their rights, and to negotiate with project developers. Forest Peoples Programme has its headquarters in the UK, and over the last twenty years has cooperated with indigenous peoples and civil society groups in Indonesia on community rights issues ranging from mining and logging, to oil palm plantations and REDD projects.

Over the last two years, Scale Up and Forest Peoples Programme have met on several occasions with the staff of REKI, with Batin IX community members affected by REKI’s operations and with NGOs in Jambi concerned about the social impacts of REKI’s operations. In May last year, we convened a meeting in Jambi which brought together representatives from some of the affected communities with representatives from REKI, the provincial government and local NGOs. The meeting reviewed problems that have arisen between REKI and the Batin IX communities, and discussed possible ways to resolve these problems. For a brief report on the meeting, please see: http://bit.ly/11MwZqd

At that meeting, the representatives from the communities and from REKI agreed to meet again to prepare for mediated negotiations to resolve outstanding issues related to the rights of the communities to their customary territories, and the impact of REKI’s license and restoration activities. Although a follow up meeting was held in September 2012, it did not lead to a mediation process. We understand that the communities that were involved in the June and September 2012 meetings are still concerned about REKI’s impact on them, and are interested in reaching agreements with REKI through a process of mediated negotiations.

In May this year, Scale Up Director, Harry Oktavian, and FPP’s policy advisor, Patrick Anderson, met with staff of PT. REKI in Jambi (Pak Julius, Yuda and Desri) and Jakarta (Worm Sorensen and Brad Sanders) and discussed the current relations between REKI and Batin IX communities. The PT REKI staff informed us that REKI does respect the rights of indigenous peoples to give or withhold their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) to developments that will affect them, and that REKI is still interested in the use of mediated negotiations as a mechanism to assist affected communities and REKI to reach agreements. PT REKI staff further informed us that REKI and several of the communities are currently negotiating agreements that will define the rights and responsibilities of each party. We were concerned, however, to learn that the communities do not have ready access to legal advice, that they have not been assisted or accompanied in the negotiations by parties of their choice, and that no independent observers have been attending the negotiations. These conditions mean that any resulting agreements will not conform with the right of the communities to give or withhold their Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

Mr Sorensen informed us that his position as Executive Head of REKI is interim, and that his contract may not be extended beyond the middle of this year. We are therefore writing to you, as the President Director of REKI, to ask if REKI intends to respect the rights of the Batin IX communities affected by its operations, in particular their right to FPIC and their rights to the lands, territories and resources that they customarily own, occupy or otherwise use.

If REKI intends to respect the rights of the Batin IX communities, FPP and Scale Up would be willing to engage with REKI and the communities to assist in learning about each other’s rights and responsibilities, and to consider ways to reach agreements which recognise and respect those rights and responsibilities. We will make the same offer of assistance to the affected Batin IX communities, and if both parties are interested, we would suggest that an assessment is made to look into the rights of Batin IX communities within the REKI concession, and how those rights are being affected by REKI’s operations. We would recommend that the assessment follow the approach set out in the Whakatane Mechanism, which was developed by the IUCN to assess the situation for indigenous peoples in protected areas and, where people are negatively affected, to propose solutions (see http://whakatane-mechanism.org ).

We look forward to the possibility of collaboration with you towards the resolution of conflicts in PT REKI based on respect for rights and livelihoods of the Batin IX people.

Sincerely

Harry Oktavian
Scale Up

Patrick Anderson
Forest Peoples Programme

www.scaleup.or.idwww.forestpeoples.org


Pekanbaru, 5 Juni 2013

Kepada:
Bapak Effendy Sumardja
President Director
PT. Restorasi Ekosistem Konservasi Indonesia (PT. REKI)

Bapak Effendy yang terhormat,

Surat ini berasal dari dua organisasi yang terlibat dalam kegiatan bersama untuk mendukung hak-hak masyarakat hutan di Indonesia. Scale Up yang berbasis di Riau dalam delapan tahun terakhir telah banyak membantu menegaskan hak-hak masyarakat yang terkena dampak akibat industri perkebunan kelapa sawit dan industri kertas, dan aktif mendorong penyelesaian konflik alternatif dengan para pengembang proyek. Forest Peoples Programme yang berkantor pusat di Inggris, selama dua puluh tahun terakhir telah pula bekerjasama dengan masyarakat adat dan kelompok masyarakat sipil di Indonesia terkait hak-hak masyarakat, mulai dari sektor pertambangan dan penebangan hutan hingga perkebunan kelapa sawit dan proyek REDD.

Selama dua tahun terakhir, Scale Up dan Forest Peoples Programme telah bertemu beberapa kali dengan staf PT. REKI, anggota masyarakat Batin IX yang terkena dampak, dan LSM di Jambi yang prihatin atas dampak sosial yang muncul akibat operasi PT. REKI tersebut. Pada bulan Mei tahun lalu, kami mengadakan pertemuan di Jambi yang menghadirkan perwakilan dari masyarakat, PT. REKI, pemerintah propinsi, dan LSM lokal. Agenda pertemuan membahas masalah yang timbul antara PT. REKI dan masyarakat Batin IX, dan mendiskusikan cara-cara terbaik untuk mengatasi masalah tersebut. Berita tentang pertemuan ini, dapat diakses di link berikut : http://bit.ly/11MwZqd

Pada pertemuan ini, perwakilan dari masyarakat dan dari PT. REKI sepakat untuk bertemu kembali dan mempersiapkan negosiasi dalam rangka membahas sejumlah permasalahan, antara lain : menyelesaikan masalah terkait hak-hak masyarakat atas wilayah adat mereka, membahas dampak dari Izin operasional PT. REKI, dan membahas kegiatan restorasi. Meskipun tindak lanjut pertemuan pada September 2012 lalu tidak mengarah pada proses mediasi, namun kami memahami bahwa masyarakat yang terlibat dalam pertemuan pada Juni dan September 2012 tersebut, masih dilanda kekhawatiran terhadap dampak dari operasional PT. REKI. Namun masyarakat tetap tertarik terhadap adanya peluang tercapai kesepakatan dengan PT. REKI melalui proses negosiasi dan mediasi.

Pada Mei tahun ini, Direktur Scale Up, Harry Oktavian, dan penasihat kebijakan FPP, Patrick Anderson, telah bertemu dengan staf PT. REKI di Jambi (Pak Julius, Yuda dan Desri) dan di Jakarta (Worm Sorensen dan Brad Sanders) dan membahas situasi hubungan yang terjadi saat ini antara PT. REKI dan masyarakat Batin IX. Staf PT. REKI menyampaikan kepada kami bahwa perusahaan menghormati hak-hak masyarakat adat atas dasar prinsip-prinsip Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC), dan PT. REKI masih tetap ingin berdamai melalui proses negosiasi dan mediasi sebagai mekanisme untuk mencapai kesepakatan demi membantu masyarakat yang terkena dampak dari PT. REKI. Staf PT. REKI juga menyampaikan kepada kami bahwa PT. REKI dan beberapa kelompok masyarakat sedang dalam proses bernegosiasi untuk membuat perjanjian, di mana proses ini akan menentukan posisi hak dan tanggung jawab masing-masing pihak. Yang menjadi kekhawatiran kami adalah proses ini bisa berjalan secara tidak transparan dan seimbang karena masyarakat tidak memiliki akses untuk mendapatkan penasihat hukum, dan tidak ada pihak yang mendampingi dalam proses negosiasi, dan tidak ada pengamat independen yang menghadiri semua proses negosiasi tersebut. Jika kondisinya terjadi seperti ini, berarti setiap perjanjian yang dihasilkan tidak akan sesuai dengan hak-hak masyarakat atas prinsip-prinsip untuk Keputusan, Bebas, Didahulukan, dan Diinformasikan (FPIC).

Mr. Sorensen mengungkapkan kepada kami bahwa posisinya sebagai Kepala Eksekutif PT. REKI cuma untuk sementara waktu, dan perjanjian kontraknya juga tidak diperpanjang setelah pertengahan tahun ini. Oleh karena itu kami menulis surat ini kepada anda sebagai Presiden Direktur PT. REKI, dan kami ingin mempertanyakan “Apakah PT. REKI tetap menghormati hak-hak masyarakat Batin IX yang terkena dampak operasi perusahaan, khususnya terhadap hak-hak mereka atas prinsip-prinsip FPIC, dan hak-hak mereka atas tanah, wilayah dan sumber daya yang secara adat telah mereka miliki, tempati atau gunakan?”

Jika PT. REKI menghormati hak-hak masyarakat Batin IX, maka FPP dan Scale Up akan bersedia bekerjasama dengan PT. REKI beserta masyarakat dalam membantu untuk saling mempelajari tentang hak dan tanggungjawab masing-masing, dan mempertimbangkan cara-cara dalam mencapai berbagai persetujuan yang mengakui dan menghormati hak-hak dan tanggung jawab masing-masing. Kami akan membuat tawaran yang sama untuk membantu masyarakat Batin IX yang terkena dampak operasi. Jika kedua belah pihak tertarik, kami akan menyarankan dilakukannya sebuah penilaian ke dalam untuk melihat hak-hak masyarakat Batin IX dalam konsesi PT. REKI, dan bagaimana hak-hak itu bisa terkena dampak dari operasi REKI tersebut. Kami akan merekomendasikan bahwa penilaian mengikuti pendekatan yang diatur dalam Mekanisme Whakatane, sebuah pendekatan penilaian yang dikembangkan oleh IUCN untuk menilai bagaimana situasi masyarakat adat yang berada di sekitar kawasan lindung dan bagaimana situasi bagi mereka yang terkena oleh dampak-dampak negatif dari sebuah operasi. Untuk usulan dan solusi, kunjungi : http://whakatane-mechanism.org

Kami menunggu kabar dari Anda atas kemungkinan kerjasama yang bisa dijalin, demi menuju penyelesaian konflik pada PT. REKI, yang didasarkan atas penghormatan terhadap hak-hak dan sumber penghidupan masyarakat Batin IX.

Hormat kami,

Harry Oktavian
Scale Up

Patrick Anderson
Forest Peoples Programme

www.scaleup.or.idwww.forestpeoples.org


PHOTO Credit: Dieter Hoffmann (RSPB).

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4 Comments

  1. Provisionally, I am pleased to see that Forest Peoples Programme and Scale Up have entered the fray to have their say in determining whether or not any lowland forest will survive in Jambi and South Sumatra (hopefully, the real intentions of the Indonesian Peasants Union are now belatedly clear to all, and one can also hope for less interference from well-meaning but naive do-gooders).

    A couple of questions to FPP and Scale Up, and no wriggling out of an answer please. If the Bathin Sembilan (whoever they may be) say they want to cut down the Harapan Rainforest and plant oil palm, over which they will have ownership, along with new settlements and the right to welcome immigration by other communities, will you accept that as a good and fair result? If they fudge that, and actually want something like that but are too polite to say so, would you realise it? Put another way, which is more important to you? The desires of a certain set of people who happen to be in a particular place at a particular time? Or the survival of the last remaining (getting less by the day) 100,000 hectares of lowland rainforest in Sumatra, while all the rest of the land is occupied by other people, oil palm, villages, other people, oil palm, rubber, other people, sinkong and oil palm? If the former, I would welcome that in one sense : as part of the overdue demise of the post-1980s myth that local people are the best people to look after rainforest.

    Sorry another question. Although this may not apply to you. Why is it that arm chair and “social” NGOs pick on easy targets who are trying to change the 1980s-2010 scenario (e.g. not only PT REKI but the more progressive palm oil producers, for example), and let the real crooks and trouble-makers off the hook? Too scared, or just too lazy to do proper investigations of the whole picture before they wade into the fray?

  2. @John Payne

    Re: “…the Batin Sembilan (whoever they may be)…”:

    “The Batin Sembilan peoples lived from rotational farming, hunting, fishing and gathering and from the trade in resins, dyes, valuable woods and medicines from the forest. Under the Dutch these local systems were affirmed and their rights in land recognised, to some extent.

    “With independence their situation changed. Along with other social groups in Jambi they were officially classed as a poor and backward people – a „tribe of children of the interior‟ – and their rights in land were not recognised. The government handed out their lands to logging, transmigration, cocoa and palm oil projects without consultation or their consent. This seriously disrupted the peoples‟ connections with their ancestral territories, diminished the remaining forests and deprived them of land and livelihood. The land-squeeze led to out- migration of the indigenous people and the intrusion into their area of settlers from Java.”

    Source: http://www.forestpeoples.org/sites/fpp/files/publication/2011/11/final-report-pt-ap-nov-2011-low-res-1.pdf

    So it seems that the marginalisation of the Batin Sembilan took place after independence, and certainly began prior to the “1980s-2010 scenario”. Your implication appears to be that after the 1980s a “myth” that local people are “the best to look after” rainforests took hold, and that we are now at the end of some mad experiment in which this was the dominant paradigm, in which communities were allowed to “look after” rainforests and converted the lot. But, in Indonesia, is this really the case? Or is it more accurate to say that customary communities post-independence have been consistently denied their rights or ability to manage their forests with any certainty over long-term tenure? And that their forests have been ceded for large-scale plantations and transmigrants?

    I would recommend you look at recent analysis by RRI and others that shows customary communities, if they secure long term tenure, to be more effective at preventing deforestation than state-run national parks. The fact is, however, that customary communities in Indonesia have been consistently denied their tenurial rights and might perceive fortress conservation as another facet of that paradigm.

  3. Most of what you say is true. But I await answers to my specific questions. Which Bathin Sembilan did you meet and talk to to get the text of the first two paragraphs?

  4. None. It’s from a Forest Peoples’ Programme report. I don’t work for FPP and feel no obligation to answer your questions. But I will have a shot.

    Q1: If the Bathin Sembilan (whoever they may be) say they want to cut down the Harapan Rainforest and plant oil palm, over which they will have ownership, along with new settlements and the right to welcome immigration by other communities, will you accept that as a good and fair result?

    A: No. That would be a disaster. What I would suggest is that at the outset of establishing a conservation project, establish if any communities have customary rights claims. Then obtain their approval for the project through an FPIC process. Without their approval, the project developer has no claim to the land, but can always enclave their farmland (if that’s how they want to use it) within the forest. The reverse, essentially, is RSPO practice, and it would be a shame if conservation projects couldn’t be held up to the standards of the palm oil industry.

    Q2: Why is it that arm chair and “social” NGOs pick on easy targets who are trying to change the 1980s-2010 scenario (e.g. not only PT REKI but the more progressive palm oil producers, for example), and let the real crooks and trouble-makers off the hook? Too scared, or just too lazy to do proper investigations of the whole picture before they wade into the fray?

    A: The question is based on a false premise. Most NGOs working on these issues spend their time attempting to address the worst elements of the palm oil and logging industries. It seems to me that FPP’s intervention in this is not “picking on” PT REKI, but offering assistance with mechanisms that can extricate the company from this conflict and arrive at a solution best for everyone.

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