Saturday, May 25, 2013

'Indonesia is seeing a new corporate colonialism'

Multinational companies have been encouraged to seize and deforest land owned by indigenous people, say human rights groups - The Guardian

Land conflicts between farmers and plantation owners, mining companies and developers have raged across Indonesia as local and multinational companies have been encouraged to seize and then deforest customary land – land owned by indigenous people and administered in accordance with their customs. More than 600 were recorded in 2011, with 22 deaths and hundreds of injuries. The true number is probably far greater, say watchdog groups.

The Indonesian national human rights commission reported more than 5,000 human rights violations last year, mostly linked to deforestation by corporations. "Deaths of farmers caused by the increase in agrarian conflicts all across Indonesia are increasing," said Henry Sarigih, founder of the Indonesian Peasant Union, which has 700,000 members.

"The presence of palm oil plantations has spawned a new poverty and is triggering a crisis of landlessness and hunger. Human rights violations keep occurring around natural resources in the country and intimidation, forced evictions and torture are common," said Sarigih. "There are thousands of cases that have not surfaced. Many remain hidden, especially by local authorities," he says.

Communities complain that they are not warned, consulted or compensated when concessions are handed out and that they are left with no option but to give up their independence and work for minimal wages for the companies.

At fault are badly drafted laws, unclear regulations, corruption and heavy-handed security and paramilitary forces – all of which favour large business over the poor. Illegal land purchases and logging are mostly supported by police, armed forces and local government staff. Companies are even allowed to work with security forces.

Feelings run high when land is taken and livelihoods are wiped out by deforestation. In December 2011, 28 protesters from a logging concession area on Padang island in Sumatra sewed their mouths shut in front of the parliament building in Jakarta in a protest against having their land "grabbed" by a giant paper and pulp company.

Last year, three people were killed in a clash with security forces during a protest over gold prospectors in Bima on the island of Sumbawa. Farmers from Mesuji in Sumatra claimed that security forces murdered residents to evict them from their land.

Over 10m hectares (24.7m acres) of land has been given away and converted to plantations in the last 10 years, forcing thousands of communities to give up forest they have collectively used for generations. Politicians offer land to supporters and give permission to develop plantations with little thought for the human or ecological consequences. In addition, government attempts to move landless people from densely populated areas to less populous areas with "transmigration" policies have caused major conflicts with indigenous groups in provinces like Papua and Sulawesi.

"Who controls the land in Indonesia controls the politics. Corruption is massive around natural resources. We are seeing a new corporate colonialism. In the Suharto era you were sent to prison for talking about the government. Now you can be sent there for talking about corporations," says Abetnego Tarigan, director of Friends of the earth Indonesia in Jakarta.

Three of the group's staff members, including its south Sumatra director, are in prison following protests at the involvement of the police and military in a land dispute involving a state-owned palm oil plantation firm. "The scale of the conflicts is growing. Every day new ones are reported. More and more police are now in the plantations. Government is trying to clamp down on mass protests," said Tarigan.

"These developments are classed as 'growth' but what we are seeing is the collapse of communities of fisherfolk or farmers and increasing poverty. We are exchanging biodiversity for monocultures, local economies for global ones, small-scale producers are becoming labourers and community land is becoming corporate. This is the direction we are going."

Thursday, May 23, 2013

April: one hand restoring, the other deforesting

Despite a restoration program organized by a company affiliated to pulp giant in Kampar Peninsula, Riau province, launched and endorsed by the Ministry of Forestry, environmentalists criticized it as a manuoevre by wo-faced company which merely seek benefit from credit carbon scheme. In the first week of May, Minister of Forestry, Zulkifli Hasan, in Jakarta inaugurated the million-dollar ecosystem restoration program initiated by PT Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP), a subsidiary of Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL). The restoration program of around 20 thousand hectares of deep peat Kampar Peninsula forest in Riau is planned to overcome forest degradation and deforestation, said APRIL management as reported by media.

However, Muslim Rasyid, Jikalahari coordinator, commented to Eyes on the Forest: “An applause should be addressed to PT RAPP (PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper) for their commitment in creating the never-ending-save-forest fiction to cover the ugly truth which the company has been doing along the way." Rasyid urged the company to stop deforestation in Kampar Peninsula as APRIL group has pulped thousands hectares of natural peat forest in the rich-carbon area. The Minister of Forestry said the restoration is very crucial to recover forest to its normal condition in order to restore the biodiversity, structrure and other natural aspects in the industrial forest areas, local media reported. In addition, the restoration in Riau is also meant to set the pattern of industrial forest ecosystem management. Timber Forest Product Utilization Restoration (IUPHHK-RE) license is given to PT Gemilang Cipta Nusantara and the restoration itself is funded by APRIL that obtains a license for the next 60 years with expanding several investments to re-greening forests in Kampar peninsula.

Previously, on 12 November 2010, PT. Gemilang Cipta Nusantara applied for IUPHHK-RE in former area of selecting logging concession IUPHHKHAlicense of PT. Agam Sempurna through to the Ministry of Forestry (MoF). This request was rejected by the MoF dated January 17, 2011 through a letter No: S.44/VI-BUHA/2011, reported. Though has been rejected by MoF, after the election of new Pelalawan District Head on 7 April 2011, the elected pair of Muhammad Harris and Marwan Ibrahim issued recomendations for PT Gemilang Cipta Nusantara (PT GCN) two weeks after they both were appointed. It was responded by the Head of Integrated Licensing Service of Riau Province who provided recomendations for PT Gemilang Citra Nusantara through letter No.503/BP2T-IR/203. In short, based upon the District Head’s recommendation, the Minister of Forestry grant an ecosystem restoration license for PT GCN, while only gave 4,000 hectares in total for the two community forests: Segamai and Serapung which launched by the Minister in March.

On the sudden recommendation issued by the newly elected Head of Pelalawan district, Muslim Rasyid added, "This indicates that the modus of corporate crime forestry is still running until this moment in Pelalawan,” as quoted by (May 10, 2013).

While, WALHI Riau executive director Hariansyah Usman said that it is ironic that the company received its restoration program operating licenses at almost the same time from the Ministry of Forestry’s green light to APRIL to resume clear natural forests in Padang Island which began in April 2013. He indicated that the restoration program is just a camouflage by APRIL to boost its opportunity to do business of carbon credit in the future. On May 6, 2013, civil society organizations like JKPP, Jikalahari, LBH Pekanbaru, STR, Corruption Trial Riau and Narasi Pokja Riau who are members of Solidarity to farmers and criminalized activist (SAKSI) issued a joint statement that the Ministry of Forestry of Indonesia and PT RAPP has committed a law violation by allegedly intimidating people, and criminalizing farmers and agrarian environmental activists in Padang Island, Kepulauan Meranti District, Riau Province, during the last four years.

Furtermore, the local citizens of Padang Island also protested the on-going deforestation by RAPP. Since the past two weeks, the residents of Padang Island reported that at least 40 units of heavy equipments owned by PT RAPP have been operating in Hiu River, Tanjung Padang Village, and 3 units of heavy equipments in the Lukit village, Senalit, Merbau sub-district. Three pontoons containing felled natural wood is also found in Senalit. The above facts show that PT RAPP is still operating although since January 3rd, 2012 MoF had suspended all forest management activities by the company in Padang Island until further notice.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

More protests against APRIL

After being criticized by environmental organizations for its poor forest practices, Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) is now facing protest by local communities. The students association of Pelalawan district protested at the main office of APRI's sublidy and main supplier, PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) for failing in bringing employment for locals as well as for the lack of transparency industrial waste the management. Hipmawan, the Pelalawan students association, staged protest in Pekanbaru last week by spreading banners and speech blaming ignorance by the pulp giant, local media reported. Hipmawan told journalists that PT RAPP’s existence in the district has caused more losses to the community’s living rather than the benefit. Hipmawan collected evidence of environmental destruction impacted by APRIL’s main supplier in Kampar River due to pulp mill waste, online magazine reported.

Last month, a corruption watchdog urged law enforcers to probe forestry-related corruption cases involving APRIL suppliers as its main supplier, PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) caused the State suffering loss of Rp 929 billion (USD 94.7 million).

During their protest in Pekanbaru on 18 April, Hipmawan urged APRIL to be transparent in managing waste and to apply standardized industrial waste management. "We assume that industrial waste was thrown into Kampar River, so the recent condition for the river is polluted, said Abdul Wadud. He also blamed PT RAPP for providing less opportunity for job seekers in Pelalawan district despite government rules suggested a company to allocate 30 percent of local workers. The students’ group accused APRIL’s PT RAPP of driving poverty to local farmers as they suffered shrinkage of land for agriculture that traditionally cultivated for decades, but now appeared to be taken over by the company after obtaining licenses from the government.

In March, Indonesia Corruption Watch published that PT RAPP caused the State loss due to cases of forestry license scandals in the province. "Such a data are ones that become the Court’s decision regarding to cases of corruption in industrial timber plantation business licensing," said Tama S. Langkun, the ICW campaigner as quoted as saying by ANTARA news agency. ICW said besides PT RAPP there are other 16 timber suppliers of APRIL and APP groups that allegedly involved in corruption cases inflicting huge State’s losses such as PT Merbau Pelalawan Lestari, PT Selaras Abadi Utama, PT Uniseraya, CV Putri Lindung Bulan, CV Tuah Negeri, CV Mutiara Lestari, PT Rimba Mutiara Permai, PT Mitra Tani Nusa Sejati, PT Bhakti Praja Mulia, PT Trio Mas FDI, PT Satria Perkasa Agung, PT Mitra Hutani Jaya, CV Alam Jaya, CV Harapan Jaya, PT Madukuro and PT Yos Raya Timber.