Press Releases

September 22, 2014

Press Release: Indonesia’s President inundated with calls to protect Iconic Leuser Ecosystem

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Outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Green Legacy Stands or Falls on Protection of the Leuser Ecosystem, NGOs say 

[Jakarta, Sept. 22] In the final weeks of his presidency, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has come under massive international pressure to act to protect one of the world’s most biodiverse forests. 

On the eve of the UN Climate Summit in New York, thousands of tweets flooded the President’s personal twitter account, @SBYudhoyono, asking him to protect the Leuser Ecosystem, as recent studies found Indonesia to have overtaken Brazil in having the highest rate of deforestation in the world. Located at the country’s most western tip, the fate of the Leuser Ecosystem rests entirely on the cancellation of an illegal spatial plan drawn up by the government of Aceh province.

“The Aceh Spatial Plan is invalid and illegal,” said Effendi Isma, spokesperson of Aceh Forest Care Coalition. “The plan is clearly at odds with National Spatial Planning Law and the President’s own moratorium on new plantations. It even goes as far as violating Aceh’s own 2006 Law on Aceh Governance, which is causing much distress for all those in Indonesia and abroad who supported the Helsinki Peace process.”

The Aceh Spatial Plan, which opens up the nationally protected Leuser Ecosystem to logging, mining and clearing for plantations, has become a global and national scandal. An evaluation by the Ministry of Home Affairs requires Aceh’s government to revise the plan and ensure protection of the Leuser Ecosystem, but to date the Aceh Government has completely ignored this obligation.  

“The situation is very clear.  If President SBY does not cancel the Aceh Spatial Plan an extremely dangerous precedent will be set for law enforcement in Indonesia, and environmental commitments right across the country. Time is running out for President SBY. He only has a couple of weeks before he steps down from office,” said Greenpeace forest campaigner Teguh Surya.

“Thousands of Aceh residents have already lost their livelihoods, and many have lost their lives, because of bad land-use planning” said Effendi. “The will of the people of Aceh is to restore our forests, not destroy them, as they protect our communities from flooding and are the key to our long term prosperity. They are a huge natural asset to the economy of Aceh, millions of people rely on having Leuser’s forests protected,” he concluded.

“Losing the Leuser Ecosystem would be a humanitarian and environmental disaster,“ said leading primatologist Dr Ian Singleton, Director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. “It is the last place on earth where orangutans, rhinos, tigers, and elephants coexist in the wild. President SBY has said he never wants to have to tell his granddaughter, Almira, that these species disappeared like the dinosaurs.  But he risks having to tell her exactly that, and that it was he himself who allowed it to happen! He risks having to admit to Almira that by his own failure to enforce national laws, he was personally accountable for the extinction of these iconic Indonesian treasures.” 

“The President of Indonesia can respond to the calls of thousands of people rallying for bold climate action by rejecting the plan to destroy the Leuser Ecosystem for palm oil and pulp plantations.  Business as usual practices are no longer tenable as consumers, investors and governments are taking action to secure a safe climate by demanding deforestation and conflict free commodities,” concluded Gemma Tillack, Agribusiness Campaign Director for Rainforest Action Network.  [ends]

Images available on request:

Farwiza Farhan – Media Officer – Forest Nature and Environment Aceh

farwiza@gmail.com

+62 821 6261 0756

For further comment:

Teguh Surya – Forest and Climate Campaigner – Greenpeace Indonesia

+62 819 1519 1979

Dr Ian Singleton – Director – Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme

+62 811 650 491 

Effendi Isma – Spokesperson – Aceh Forest Care Coalition

+62 813 6016 0055

Video available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7x5UyXKYnYg