PTUN Judges Distorting The Course of Justice Over Rawa Tripa Case: Walhi Aceh
Banda Aceh – A leading environmental group has slammed Banda Aceh National Administrative Court (PTUN) judges’ inability to make a just ruling over simple legal caseconcerning the development of peat swamp forests in the Rawa Tripa area of Nagan Raya district that fear for the fate of orangutans and environmental damage.
“If this legal challenge had no legal basis, then why wasn’t it rejected at the beginning?,” the executive director of Aceh chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), T.M Zulfikar said in the press statement sent to The Aceh Globe.
As reported earlier the panel of PTUN judges on Tuesday ruled out a lawsuit by Walhi which challenged a license to convert part of the Tripa peat swamp in Darul Makmur sub-district of the western Aceh to a palm oil plantation.
The then Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf issued the license to palm oil company PT Kallista Alam on August 25, 2011 in Tripa peat swamps. During the final hearing, the PTUN judges acknowledged the permit for conversion of 1,605 ha of Tripa’s peat swamp forest was inside the protected the Leuser Ecosystem.
Zulfikar pointed to Article 53 of the Law on National Administration saying that the court was legally obliged to hear and rule on the case. Walhi considers the lack of a decision by the judges as a case of inappropriate behaviour because they refused to reach a ruling even though the case has been running for nearly five months.
“While the court case has dragged on in Banda Aceh, the peat forests of Tripa have continued to suffer widespread damage. An illegally dug canal in the contested concession continues to drain the swamp of its water increasing the fire danger in the protected area,” the statement said.
“The conduct of judges behavior in allowing the continued destruction of the environment is an embarrassment to the Indonesian Judicial system, and requires a full investigation by the supreme court.”
Zulfikar accused the PTUN judges as distorting the course of justice, and demonstrated the extent to which they are prepared to go to avoid taking sides with common people and environmental justice.
“There is no doubt we will be appealing this appalling decision. The longer we wait, the worse the situation is getting in Tripa. The judge clearly does not understand the process of law,” Kamaruddin, on of lawyers for the Walhi told a crowd of press at the end of the hearing.
Meanwhile, legal team of PT. Kallista Alam Firman Azwar Lubis stated satisfaction over the court ruling. “The verdict was correct, we don’t destroy the environment through converting peat swamp forest into palm oil plantation” he said just outside the court room, referring to his companies activities inside clearly protected forest.
The head of the government’s REDD+ Taskforce, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, has several times in international forums touted the moratorium on permits as an effective tool to reduce emissions. Even the Indonesian President has set a target of a 26% in Indonesia’s emissions.
“If this is how we manage our forests and peat-lands, this target is a joke,” an outraged Zulfikar said.
Anything but a clear ruling that protects deep peat swamp forests threatens the 1 billion dollar assistance package Norway has promised to Indonesia. The inability of the court to reach a ruling in the case has opened the eyes of the International community to the reality that Indonesia is not fulfilling its commitment to halt conversion of forests and peat-lands.
In the last week alone, over 30,000 people around the globe have signed petitions calling for the protection of Tripa peat swamps and its population of critically-endangered Sumatran orangutan, the fate of whom now lies in the balance.
- The Aceh Globe