Press Release: Aceh Judge slammed over Indonesian court’s inability to make a just ruling over simple legal case.
Coalition to save Tripa Peat Forest
International Press Release
For Immediate Distribution
Aceh Judge slammed over Indonesian court’s inability to make a just ruling over simple legal case.
[Banda Aceh INDONESIA]. Today Tuesday 3rd of April, the Council of Judges of the Banda Aceh National Administrative Court announced it was the inappropriate body to make a ruling on the challenge mounted by the Aceh branch of WALHI / Friends of the Earth Indonesia against legality of an oil palm concession permit granted by the former Governor of Aceh to PT Kallista Alam in the protected Tripa peat swamps.
The Judges’ ruling took over an hour to read, with the key finding that: the Administrative Court in Aceh does not have the authority to examine WALHI Aceh’s challenge to the permit.
“If this legal challenge had no legal basis, then why wasn’t it rejected at the beginning?” fumed T.Muhammad Zulfikar, Director of WALHI Aceh. He then pointed to Article 53 of the Law on National Administration saying the court was legally obliged to hear and rule on the case.
The court acknowledged the permit for conversion of 1,605 ha of Tripa’s Peat Swamp Forest was inside the protected Leuser Ecosystem, Sumatra. WALHI / Friends of the Earth Indonesia 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. Over the last weeks this has escalated with huge man-made fires tearing through Tripa for 9 days, making headlines worldwide, with experts warning the local orangutan population could become extinct before the end of the year.
The conduct of the judges behaviour 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.
The director of WALHI Aceh, T. Muhammad Zulfikar accused the judges of the Administrative Court 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.” Lawyer for the complainants Kamaruddin 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 do not destroy the environment through converting peat swamp forest into palm oil plantation” he stated 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 President has set a target of a 26% in Indonesia’s emissions. “If this is how we manage our forests and peatlands, this target is a joke” an outraged Zulfikar pointed out.
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 peatlands. In the last week alone, over 30,000 people around the world have signed petitions calling for the protection of the Tripa Peat Swamps and its population of the critically-endangered Sumatran orangutan, the fate of whom now lies in the balance.
The National Executive Director of WALHI, Berry Nahdian Forqan was dumb-founded by the lack of a ruling, saying “all our efforts to save our environment will never succeed as long as the Government fails to ensure that all the various state and law enforcement agencies demonstrate a strong commitment to enforcement of environmental laws, and prioritize our environment and the ordinary citizens of this country over vested business interests”.
He further stated that the weak ruling by the Judges of the Banda Aceh Administrative Court on the Tripa case represents the hypocrisy of the Indonesian Government’s commitment to emissions reduction, so loudly trumpeted by the President, and proves yet again that Indonesia’s commitment to emissions reduction is nothing more than political posturing. He added “… and if I was a Norwegian tax payer, I would be asking my government why my taxes are going to country that is not keeping its side of the bargain!”
Prior to the judge entering the court room, two foreign observers were prevented entering court by police and immigration officials, stating they had no purpose reporting Aceh court matters to the world. The two were held and questioned by immigration for 5 hours before being released.
For further information or comment please contact:
Deddy Ratih, Walhi / Friends of the Earth Indonesia;
Yuyun Indradi, Greenpeace / Forest Political Campaigner;
Mobile: +62-812 2616 1759