Photo Credit : Paul Hilton / Forest, Nature and Environment Aceh
[MEDAN, NORTH SUMATRA] A large demonstration initiated by controversial palm oil company Pt Kalista Alam, who is accused of illegally destroying some of the world’s most important remaining orangutan habitat on the west coast of Sumatra, has disrupted the Meulaboh district court today where the Indonesian Ministry of Environment is prosecuting the company for environmental crimes. The potentially precedent-setting case has received international attention and is being monitored closely by NGOs, scientists, the government and industry alike.
The court was temporarily delayed as an estimated 150 palm oil workers, who arrived by busses believed to be paid by Pt Kalista Alam, conducted a noisy demonstration before the court, demanding the court find in favour of the controversial company. The same company had one of its palm oil concessions cancelled in September 2012, after administrational courts found the permit had been granted illegally, and last week its assets were frozen by the civil court as its process draws to an expected close. The final hearing has now been scheduled for December 5th where now the judges are expected to deliver a final ruling.
“PT Kallista Alam is one of several palm oil companies illegally burning forests on deep peat within the Leuser Ecosystem during the last few years” Said Dr Ian Singleton, Director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, speaking at a packed media event outside a major international RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) conference in Medan earlier today. “We congratulate the Indonesian Ministry of Environment on its action against PT Kallista Alam, but also remind people that a potentially devastating new spatial plan being proposed by the Provincial Government still threatens huge swathes of Aceh’s forests and their incredibly unique biodiversity, in addition to Aceh’s people and their economic livelihoods. If approved, this new plan is likely to lead to an upsurge of new legal cases due to the massive increase in environmental damage it will undoubtedly cause.”
“If the new spatial plan goes through it will be the the end of the Sumatran Elephant” Dr Singleton concluded.
“There can only be one word to describe the situation for the Leuser Ecosytem, and it’s emergency.” warned Kamaruddin SH, an Acehnese lawyer who represented communities in Tripa with their complaints against PT Kallista Alam. “The Leuser Ecosystem is a Nationally Strategic Area protected for its Environmental Function, It is currently illegal for any district, provincial or national leader to issue permits for palm oil, mining or any other activity that would degrade the environmental function of the Leuser Ecosystem, but powerful business lobby is currently trying to undo this, not to support community, but to line their pockets with the assets of Aceh. Todays show of intimidation by Pt Kalista Alam outside the court in Meulaboh is just one example of many companies attempting to intimidate the legal and political processes of Aceh, it deserves close scrutiny from anti corruption and legal agencies.
Landscape planning and GIS specialist, Graham Usher, showed satellite information and data analysis that highlighted the extreme sensitivity of Aceh’s environment. “Much of Aceh’s remaining forests are on steeply sloping terrain, that should be off limits to development under existing spatial planning regulations. Clearing forests and building roads in such areas is simply not safe, and potentially disastrous.
“What will happen if these forests are cleared is very clear, and easy to predict. We will see a collapse of the ecosystem, and the loss of the environmental benefits they provide to Aceh’s people. This will lead to food security problems in the future, in addition to a huge increase in flash floods, erosion and landlsides. It’s not rocket science”, he stressed. “it’s simply cause and effect. To open new roads and exploitive industrial concessions in the heart of Aceh will only result in even further destruction, and lead to a rash of new, entirely avoidable, social conflicts. It’s not only unique biodiversity that will suffer, Aceh’s people will suffer greatly as well!”
“Aceh is currently suffering from environmental anarchy, there is next to no law enforcement, and local elites are left to take what they want without monitoring or fear of legal consequences.”
“The community of Aceh feels that promises have been broken” stated TM Zulfikar, former Chairman of Friends of the Earth, Aceh. While many supported Governor Zaini in his election, there is now increasing frustration and anger being expressed towards his administration. “If we’d known Aceh was going to be carved up, cut down, and sold to the highest bidder most would probably have voted differently.
“Recently the Aceh Government told us at a public meeting that there is no budget left for the development of the Province’s spatial planning and that it therefore needs to be approved and ratified before the end of December. But they have still not completed any environmental sensitivity analysis and key data and information has failed to be shared. I seriously worry what the Government will do in the next two months. If things happen as we hear, he will forever be recorded in history as the Governor who returned Aceh to social conflict and environmental destruction.” Concluded Mr Zulfikar.
Gemma Tillack with Rainforest Action Network called on international consumer companies who use palm oil in their products to demand that their suppliers verifiably guarantee that the oil they supply is not connected to rainforest destruction like that taking place in Tripa. “Tripa and the Leuser Ecosystem are globally important areas. It is imperative that consumer companies take responsibility for the fact that Conflict Palm Oil like that produced at the expense of the Tripa peat swamp is making its way into the global marketplace. Companies like the “Snack Food 20” targeted by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) urgently need to engage with their supply chains and implement truly responsible palm oil procurement policies that demand palm oil be produced without contributing to rainforest destruction, climate pollution or human rights abuses.”
For further information please contact:
Dr Ian Singleton
Conservation Director, Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP)
Landscape Sensitivity Analyst, PanEco Foundation
Aceh Communications Officer, Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL)
Lawyer for Tripa Community Coalition
Senior Agribusiness Campaigner, Rainforest Action Network
Wednesday, October 3, 2012 16:21 WIB | Free translation by Adji Darsoyo
Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Melanie Subono, an artis and environmental activist as well as observer of gender issues, volunteered to join in the investigation of the destruction of Tripa Peat Swamp forest.
“I volunteered to conduct visit and investigation. I would like to eye-witness the destruction so far and to mediate,” said Melanie.
Melanie joins actively the Save Tripa Action through the petition launched by Change.org urging the protection of Tripa. Melanie is convinced that the petition leads to big impact and changes.
“I believe in the voice of the community. I believe, everything God created has right to live, including the biodiversity in Tripa Peat Swamp threatened by land conversion,” said Melanie.
Change.org, a leading web platform for social changes has again launched a new petition for the protection of Tripa Peat Swamp on the west coast of Sumatra.
“This petition is the second part of the first petition that has successfully triggered the withdrawal of the permit of PT. Kalista Alam. This time we launch the petition titled Save Tripa Two,” said the Director of Change.org, Usman Hamid.
Usman said that this time the petition urged for investigation, arrests and prosecution of the perpetrators of the destruction of Leuser Ecosystem’s peatland declared as National Strategic Area for Environmental Conservation.
Tripa Peat Swamp covers approx. 61,803 ha of peatland, on which 5 companies conduct palm oil cultivation.
One of the palm oil companies is PT Kalista Alam, which permit was revoked by Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah after the ruling of Administrative High Court of Medan.
The decision of the High Court granted WALHI Aceh’s appeal upon the issuance of the controversial permit by the former Governor of Aceh on August 25, 2011.
Besides legal lawsuit filed by WALHI Aceh, the movement for the protection of Tripa Peat Swamp was also supported by a petition for the protection of Tripa Peat Swamp resulting in 25,000 signatures.
According to Usman, expression of support through petition is important for the prosecution of the perpetrators of the destruction of Tripa Peat Swamp.
He also added that all signed petitions will be sent electronically to the officials in Aceh.
Editor: Desy Saputra
03 October 2012
INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE
Coalition to Save Tripa Peat Swamp Forest
“Historic Cancellation of Oil Palm Permit Opens Door for Prosecution of Companies Crimes
Latest Satellite Image shows company still burning protected peatlands”
JAKARTA – Less than one week after history was made as the Aceh Government revoked the first industrial palm oil permit from the Tripa Peat Swamp Forest, a coalition of NGO’s known as ‘Save Tripa Peat Forest’ highlighted today in a press briefing additional clear breaches of Indonesia’s multi million dollar forest protection agreement with Norway, only kilometers from the first location, and demanded National Police increase their activities to quickly bring these crimes to trial.
Deddy Ratih, Forest Campaigner for Walhi (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) explained “This continues to be a the leading test case for a National problem. While the revocation of PT Kallista Alam is a step in the right direction, there is still much more action required by police and Government to resolve the problems in Tripa. The Ministry of Environment continues to investigate a raft of the envrionmental crimes in Tripa with no end in sight, meanwhile, the legal testomonies of local communities to the National Police continue to be ignored”
Kamarrudin, the lawyer representing local people and the environment in the Tripa case, said, “There are strong indications that the enforcement of the law in the Tripa case has been “hijacked” by the financial power of corporations operating in the Tripa peat swamps. This can be seen in the less than optimal work of the provincial and national police, and the investigators of the Ministry of the Environment. We request that the National Police Chief and the Ministry of the Environment immediately evaluate the investigative processes to date, and move forward with a thorough investigation of the criminal crimes against spatial planning, plantation and environmental laws and regulations in the Tripa peat swamps. We hope that this case, that has drawn national and international attention, will not be frozen by those with vested interests in the law enforcement and government agencies. We also hold the Ministry of the Environment to its promise to launch criminal and administrative against companies that have committed serious environmental crimes in the Tripa peat swamps”.
In an impassioned address, Adnan NS, a prominent Community leader from Aceh stressed, “Despite the recent cancellation of the PT Kallista Alam permit, and ongoing investigations into violations of the law by this and other companies in Tripa, on the ground nothing has changed yet. Community livelihoods continue to be destroyed, even though local community leaders travelled all the way to Jakarta to report this to the national police back in November 2011. We are still waiting for action and demand to know why their testimonies have been ignored”.
“Over the last two months I’ve been on speaking tours of both the USA and Australia, and all around the world people are continually asking me about the situation in Tripa.” Said Dr Ian Singleton, Conservation Director of the Sumatran Conservation Programme. “International interest in the governance of Indonesia’s remaining forests and rapidly declining wild species populations is extremely high, and to them my message is clear – anyone with a computer can now check on forest clearance in Indonesia, measure and quantify it, and get daily updates on illegal fires, and circulate that information globally. As individuals we have never before had access to so much quantifiable information in other parts of the world or the ability to share it so widely and people around the world continue to be extremely alarmed and concerned about Tripa, as what they see is that so far nothing has yet changed. Unless the destruction is halted very very quickly, we are still likely to see the local extinction of Sumatran Orangutans from Tripa in the very near future.
“The forest concession known as Dua Perkasa Lestari (DPL) has been marked as off-limits in all three releases of the Government’s moratorium map, a tool designed to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and degradation, but satellite imagery from last week clearly show that burning and illegal clearing of Tripa’s peat swamp forests is still taking place. Furthermore, the DPL area has no clear HGU permit, it clearly lies within the Leuser Ecosystem protected by National Spatial Planning law 26/2007, and it contains peat over 3m deep. There are three companies that have been the major burning culprits, namely PT.SPS2, PT DPL and PT KA. We should pay greater attention to this because it is in violation of Law No. 32/2009 on the Environmental Protection and Management” explained Riswan Zen, a Senior GIS mapping expert from the Univeristy of North Sumatra.
“Over 25,000 people have already signed a petition calling for immediate action to halt the destruction of Tripa’s unique ecosystem, from within Tripa itself, from Aceh, from Indonesia, and from all over the world, contributing to the recent closure of the illegal PT Kallista Alam concession. Now we, together with the local community, are launching a new petition (at http://www.change.org/savetripa2) calling on Indonesia’s National Police to support the findings of the REDD+ Taskforce and the Ministry of Environment, and immediately escalate the cases under investigation to formal prosecutions. Much more still needs to be done to protect the remaining forests of Tripa, Aceh, and Indonesia as a whole. But the recent cancellation of the illegal PT Kallista Alam concession is an historic legal precedent for the country and it now needs to be followed up with the investigation and processing of all law breakers, and prosecution for their offences” Said Usman Hamid of Change.org Indonesia.
Its up to all of us to take action to protect the environment, and it can be as simple as signing a petition online, sharing it with your friends, tweeting and using social media to make our country a better place for all Indonesians,” said Melanie Subono. “I’m proud to have signed the petition to save Tripa and to see our laws finally being enforced. In fact, it is our duty as citizens to demand that our laws be upheld, especially those protecting the environment we all live in. Very soon I plan to visit Tripa and see the Orangutans, the forests, and the destruction still taking place with my own eyes. I’ll be going in close to 4 weeks time, and sincerely hope that before I get there, the National Police will have finally begun to take action on this globally important issue”
For further media comment or information, please contact:
Dr Ian Singleton
Director of Conservation, Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program
Forest Campaigner, WALHI Indonesia (Friends of the Earth Indonesia)
Political Campaigner, Greenpeace Indonesia
October 01, 2012
Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah officially revoked the business permit for a company developing a controversial oil palm plantation in a peat swamp in Sumatra, concluding a case that had tested Indonesia’s commitment to a moratorium on new concessions in peatlands and rainforests.
Abdullah revoked palm oil company PT Kallista Alam’s permit on Thursday after an Indonesian court instructed him to do so. Earlier the central government’s REDD+ task force concluded the plantation in the Tripa peatland violated multiple regulations.
“This is the first in the history of the Government of Aceh,” said Makmur Ibrahim, Head of the Legal and PR Office of the Aceh Regional Secretariat.
The permit allowing PT Kallista Alam to establish a 1,605-hectare plantation in the Tripa peat swamp was controversial because it violated a country-wide moratorium on new concessions in peatlands and primary forests issued in 2011 by Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The concession was granted by the former Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf more than three months after the moratorium went into effect.
A local environmental group — the Aceh chapter Walhi — filed suit against PT Kallista Alam and the Aceh government to test the central government’s commitment to the moratorium. The case garnered international interest for both its egregious nature — multiple regulations should have protected the land from conversion — and the presence of critically endangered orangutans. Local communities were also opposed to the plantation, bringing in a human rights element as well.
PT Kallista Alam is also the subject of a police investigation for illegal burning, according to The Jakarta Post.
Over the past 20 years Indonesia has had one of the highest rates of forest loss in the world, but in 2009 Indonesian Yudhoyono pledged to reduce deforestation as part of a commitment to slow greenhouse gas emissions. Under his “7/26” plan, Indonesia aims to reduce emissions by at least 26 percent — and up to 41 percent with international support — by 2020 relative to a business-as-usual scenario. Norway has committed up to $1 billion to support the initiative.
The Globe Journal,Firman Hidayat
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
The countdown on the status of the large scale oil palm companies operating on this highly carbon absorbing swamp has started. At last, the Government of Aceh is involved through the establishment of an internal investigation team. In one step, Tripa Peat Swamp will either be restored or destroyed. The commitment of the Governor of Aceh will decide.
“The Governor of Aceh has the authority to withdraw all permits in Tripa Peat Swamp if those companies are still clearing by burning,” said the Head of the Legal Office of the Province Secretariat of Aceh, Makmur Ibrahim SH M Hum.
Interviewed by The Globe Journal after attending an internal meeting related to Tripa Peat Swamp on Tuesday afternoon (31/7), Makmur said that the meeting decide to send a joint team on Thursday (2/8) consisting of different offices such as Bapedal, BP2T, Government Offices of Aceh, the Police, Provincial Office of Forestry and Plantation,” he said.
“If companies in Tripa Peat Swamp are violating their permits, if there is any clauses within the permits, e.g. Operation and implementation not in accordance to the permits, both technically and administratively alligned with the existing regulation, as well as the Regulation of the Ministry of Agriculture No. 62/2007 containing statement forbidding clearing by burning, Which is also written in the Environmental Law,” added Makmur.
The clause stated that if companies conduct land clearing by burning, this is clearly violating the regulation and the permit could get revoked.
Further, all companies in Tripa Peat Swamp are obliged to frequently submit physical report. “Concerning the report, there is none up to now,” said Makmur convincing.
According to Makmur, the leter from UKP4 and from WALHI Aceh about the withdrawal of the permits of two companies in Tripa Peat Swamp can only be used as additional references. “If there is no violation, the letter is not strong enough, except it is decided through a legal process,” he said.
Currently, the Government of Aceh only focuses on the withdrawal of the permits of PT. Kalista Alam. “We will finalise one by one. PT. SPS-2 is also in our investigation list. This means, the team will submit their recommendation regarding the withdrawal of companies’ permits in Tripa Peat Swamp,” he said.
According to a liable source to The Globe Journal after the meeting, the Governor of Aceh, Zaini Abdullah, stated that the permits of two companies are to be withdrawn, since they have violated the law through clearing by burning. I addition, those companies in Tripa Peat Swamp have never submitted their report, which is frequently due every six months.
Related to the burning, whether it is deliberately or accidentally, it is clear that the companies are obliged to control the fire, but the companies seem to be incapable to control the wide spreading fire. “So the permits of those companies in Tripa Peat Swamp will be withdrawn,” said the source to The Globe Journal, who also attended the meeting,
Article was originally published by in The Globe Journal, free translation by Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP)
Firman Hidayat | The Globe Journal
Wednesday, July 18, 2012 17:30 WIB
Banda Aceh – After WALHI Aceh massively exposed the controversial ‘in principle’ permit, Irwandi Yusuf finally admitted that he regretted issuing it and wants to revoke it. There was pressure on me to issue the ‘in principle’ permit, there was support for it from several people and agencies.
“I regret signing the permit for PT. Kalista Alam,” said the former Governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf.
Irwandi Yusuf’s remorse suggests he was forced to issue the in principle permit. “The permit I issued was no different from one issued by the Regent of Nagan Raya, and there was no influence at all,” said Irwandi Yusuf.
The problem of the permit for PT. Kalista Alam is very unfortunate. Irwandi himself also admitted that he had previously rejected the company’s request many times. “I ‘kicked it aside’ almost for two years, until evaluations eventually appeared from the provincial Forestry Office regarding the Leuser Ecosystem issue and a letter from the Police stating that the company had no legal problems,” said Irwandi convincingly.
“It could actually have been a problem if I had just ignored these letters. I could have been sued in the Administrative Court, since all requirements for the permit appeared to be fulfilled,” he continued.
Still, Irwandi did not simply rely on the supporting recommendations of these others, so he consulted with Aceh Green, and it appeared the Tripa Peat Swamp was not included in the moratorium map issued by President SBY.
Then there was an assessment or analysis by the Provincial Forestry Department regarding the Leuser Ecosystem, identifying that the utilisation of the area of the Leuser Ecosystem did not preclude this, if there was already an existing permit. “Tripa Peat Swamp is within the Leuser Ecosystem, but there is an exception that already existing permits (i.e. when the Ecosystem was established) must be respected, and what’s more, the official map of the Leuser Ecosystem was only newly made,” said Irwandi Yusuf.
“I only issued an “in principle” permit, with the Regent of Nagan Raya, whilst the concession permit itself comes from the Central Government, which the company itself takes care of,” said Irwandi during his press conference at Rumoh Aceh on Wednesday (18/07) lunchtime.
“I regret that I signed it, but since the Police said there was no problem, and as the Head of the District Parliament in Nagan Raya , Samsuardi (also known as Juragan), and a Chinese person came to see me, and they (Juragan and the Chinese person) said that they wanted to accommodate 30% plasma with the plantation, since, according to them, many community members from Nagan Raya are still unemployed, I then signed the permit,” stressed Irwandi Yusuf.
Actually, the Tripa problem lies with the company, PT Kallista Alam. According to the former Governor of Aceh, they still do not have a full concession permit, but the company has already started work. “If they don’t yet have the concession permit and they are already working that is clearly wrong,” he repeated.
“I would really like to revoke that permit letter,” said Irwandi Yusuf, closing the interview.
Revoke All Permits
The Coalition Team to Save the Tripa Swamps (TKPRT) urged the current Governor of Aceh, Zaini Abdullah, to send a recommendation to related Ministries regarding the withdrawal of all concession permits in the Tripa Peat Swamp, Nagan Raya District.
TKPRT’s spokesperson, Irsadi is waiting to see if Aceh’s Governor is brave enough to apply an immediate moratorium on all activities by concessions in the Tripa Peat Swamp and then revoke all permits within Tripa.
Irsadi has also expressed sincere appreciation to the UKP4 (REDD+ Task Force) in Jakarta, who have already written to the Governor of Aceh to revoke the permits of two of the problem companies, namely PT. Kallista Alam and PT. Surya Panen Subur-2.
“It would be far better to cancel all the concession permits in the Tripa Peat Swamps,” emphasized Irsadi.
Provincial Forestry Office is Provincial Branch of Department of Forestry on National Level
Leuser Ecosystem Management Authority is Provincial Government Agency managing Leuser Ecosystem
Banda Aceh – The Ministry of Environment and the Nationa Police in Jakarta will be very serious to solve the case related to the slash and burn activity as well as to concession permits in Tripa Peat Swamp. Deputy V of the Ministry of Environment, Sudariyono, said to The Globe Journal on Friday (06/07) that the Ministry of Environment only concentrates on two cases occurred in Tripa Peat Swamp.
He explained that those two cases relate to peat burning filed as crime lawsuit and to environmental destruction filed as civil lawsuit. “The National and Provincial Police concentrate in the Law No. 18/2008 on Plantation, thus relates to permits,” said Sudaryono.
“So, the domain of the Ministry of Forestry is to concentrate in the two cases only, that will be handed over to the Attorney General as soon as possible,” he added To date, the Ministry of Environment has interrogated 32 witnesses for both companies, 19 for PT. Surya Panen Subur and 13 for PT. Kalista Alam.
Still according to Daryono, the interrogation of the witnesses were conducted in three different location, locally, in Banda Aceh and in Jakarta. “From the community directly on site,” he continued.
The Ministry of Forestry only focuses on peat burning, since this already damages the environment. “Currently, no one was named as suspect,” said Daryono ending of the interview.
- Ministry of Environment Will Sue Two Companies in Tripa (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Fires in Protected Peat Forest Have Companies Feeling the Heat (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)
- Graft suspected in palm oil conversion (endoftheicons.wordpress.com)