PRESS RELEASE: National Police Investigation in Tripa requires palm oil permits immediately revoked and criminal prosecution to avoid greater embarrassment to Indonesian credibility.

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06/05/2012

PRESS RELEASE

COALTION TO SAVE TRIPA PEAT FOREST

National Police Investigation in Tripa requires palm oil permits immediately revoked and criminal prosecution to avoid greater embarrassment to Indonesian credibility.

Joint investigation team arriving at the crime site witness heavy machinary illegally digging drainage canals in deep peat of Tripa Peat Swamp Forest. The Joint investigation team is supported by National Police, Provincial Police and Indonesian Ministry of Environment
Credit: Coalition to save Tripa Forest / Handout / 3/05/2012

[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:

Deddy Ratih

Walhi / Friends of the Earth Indonesia Forest Campaigner:

Mobile:  +62 81250 8077 57

Email: ube.hitar@gmail.com

Kamarudin

Acehnesse Lawyer representing Community and Environment in Tripa Case

Mobile:             +62 8116 7001 18

Email: kamaruddinaceh@yahoo.co.id

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About endoftheicons

The Leuser Ecosystem on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia is in grave danger. Local politicians want to allow logging, mining and palm oil plantations in this vulnerable area. Sumatran orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers are already hanging on by a thread. They will not survive the destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem.

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