APRIL concessions protested by communities
Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) timber suppliers are protested by communities in several pulpwood concessions in Riau Province, Sumatra, early this month, over long-standing conflicts between villagers and companies. As reported by Eyes on the Forest, a letter by community submitted to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday to urge the leader to stop operation of APRIL’s PT RAPP in Pulau Padang and to revise Ministerial Decree number 327 year 2009 in order to exclude Pulau Padang from expansion of pulpwood plantation. Following the submission of the letter that posted at Pekanbaru Post Office on Monday (2/7/2012), six activists of Pulau Padang (Padang Island) arrived at Jakarta on Wednesday to hold rallies and threaten to hold self-immolation protest unless the Government does not stop APRIL’s PT Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP) operation in the island for good and revise SK 327/2009, the Minister Decree allowing PT RAPP to convert natural forest of 41,000-hectares concession in Pulau Padang. Latest report by Jawa Pos News Network on Thursday said that the six protesters were blocked by police to avoid them to hold a rally near Presidential Palace. Jawa Pos reported that Serikat Tani Nasional (STN, National Peasants Union) did not approve the idea of self-immolation protest and promised to find out another approach to seek solution for Pulau Padang community in conflict with PT RAPP. “We have coordinated with Serikat Tani Nasional (STN), but our step to hold an action in the Palace was not approved and STN management promised to find out solution to solve problems in Pulau Padang,” he said as quotes as saying by Jawa Pos (5/7/2012). Ridwan said the island residents have filed complaints and held actions to urge all Government agencies from any level to help them, but there is no progress yet to evict APRIL’s PT RAPP from the island. The visit to Jakarta this time is to lodge their complaint to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the only Government official they have not told of their aspiration, Tribun Pekanbaru reported Wednesday (4/7/2012). Six months ago, Pulau Padang community held extreme protest in Jakarta by sewing their mouths and raised concerns from public and politicians. The Ministry of Forestry had set up teams to solve the problem in Pulau Padang and EoF learned that the government had set up teams to settle down the conflict in the island including a current monitoring team for solving problems of Pulau Padang. Civil society group including Jikalahari and Walhi Riau allied in a coalition to support people’s cause of Meranti Island District by submitting a letter to President SBY and criticized PT RAPP for breaching agreement by continuing operation on the ground. While, in Rupat Island, Bengkalis District, residents of Pergam and Mesim villages urged the government to exclude their 4,500-hectare traditional plantation out of PT Sumatera Riang Lestari’s concession, a timber supplier affiliated to APRIL, Riau Terkini website reported on Wednesday. Sugianto, a head of STR in Rupat sub-district, said that the company and community had meetings to find out solution as the Bengkalis District Government facilitated. Last year mob violence hit the outer island as the APRIL’s supplier continued operation despite agreement told them to restrain amid unsettled compromises on land dispute. EoF found in March this year that PT SRL of Rupat site clearcut protected Ramin trees (Gonystylus spp.) in their concession showing that high conservation value forest easily ignored by APRIL. Decree 327/2009 Jawa Pos reported that three respected traditional Malay organizations in Riau, Lembaga Adat Melayu Riau (LAMR), Majelis Ulama Indonesia Riau (Islamic clerics board) and FKPMR (Riau community leaders forum), considered that the Ministerial Decree number 327 year 2009 allowing 350,000-hectare natural forest conversion in Riau for APRIL as legally questionable. The three bodies planned to file a judicial review to Constitution Court (MK) as they indicated several articles of the decree could incite conflict in Pulau Padang. Riau environmental groups consistently protested the 327/2009 decree for indications of flaws and legally questionable it contained.