Underlines the need to understand and address severe land conflicts and the disconnect between policy commitments and real change on the ground.
Last Friday afternoon, February 27th, Indra Pelani, a 22 year-old from Lubuk Mandarsah village, Nick Karim from Simpang Niam village, and a member of WALHI, a Indonesian environmental group, attempted to pass through a gated checkpoint on a road which cuts through an Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) acacia plantation in the district of Tebo, Jambi Province, on the island of Sumatra. Indra and Karim were on their way to to join a rice harvest and festival.
According to witnesses, several company security guards set on Indra, a prominent farmers’ union member, beat him brutally about the head and ignored pleas from others to stop. According to witnesses, while Nick ran to get help and call the police, Indra was abducted by the guards. By the time Karim returned with roughly 30 villagers a short time later, Indra was missing and the security officer on duty denied knowing anything about the incident.
Police in Tebo district were alerted and conducted a search Friday evening. Indra's body was discovered the next day in a swamp, roughly 400 meters from the road. Indra's feet and hands were bound with rope and his mouth stuffed with a t-shirt. His body showed signs of severe beating. After his body was taken to a hospital, a preliminary examination showed that Indra had been further brutalized and stabbed and is presumed to have died from the injuries.
This tragic incident occurred on the eve of a planned meeting of stakeholders with APP in Jakarta. The meeting was to review APP’s implementation of its public commitments to obtain Free, Prior and Informed Consent from local communities for new plantation developments, resolve land conflicts and provide remedy for past land and human rights violations. Given the current situation, Forest People’s Programme, RAN, Greenpeace, and other civil society representatives have suspended participation in APP’s stakeholder meetings until this case has been satisfactorily investigated and addressed. As of now, APP has responded by publicly condemning the murder and suspending employment of all suspects, pending further investigation.
APP is a company with a long track record of driving deforestation and social conflict through its expansion of pulp plantations across Indonesia. Under growing international pressure, in 2013 the company committed to reform itself through the adoption of new policies to uphold human rights and to halt further deforestation in its operations. Since the announcement of its new policies, APP has begun presenting itself as a global leader in social and environmental responsibility. This incident tragically underscores the disconnect between good intentions reflected by APP’s policy pronouncements and the realities of how communities are treated at the hands ofthe company and its contractors on the ground. It is now clearer than ever that in order to break the link between commodity production and human rights violations it will take much more than a new policy in order to transform the company culture.
Land conflict and human rights violations are widespread across not only APP’s concessions, but those of its competitor APRIL, and indeed many if not most pulp and oil palm plantations. This is due in large part to failures in government policy and poor forest governance as well as corruption and irresponsible action by the private sector. APP must not only work with authorities to secure justice for Indra Pelani and his family, it must prioritize changing the culture and behavior of the company, its suppliers and contractors at the field level and improve and scale up its efforts to resolve conflicts, meaningfully involving affected communities, civil society and government. Addressing the broader legacy of land conflict in Indonesia and preventing conflict in the future is going to require widespread reforms by both government and the private sector and robust engagement with and leadership by communities and civil society.
Customer and investors linked to conflict commodities have a vital role to play not only by prioritizing human rights and establishing and implementing safeguards, but also by actively engaging directly with the companies with whom they have relationships on these issues, requiring changes on the ground as a condition of business and by encouraging government reform and action. This tragic incident is a wake up call for paper and palm customers and investors about the importance of including strong human rights safeguards and reform expectations in their purchasing requirements, verification efforts and discussions with governments.
On March 9 2015 APP took a tangible first step in addressing its role in Indra Pelani’s murder. The company is suspending operations in the area and is disengaging with the security contractor involved in the case.
Death of Community Member in Sumatra Places Asia Pulp and Paper’s Social Responsibility Commitments in Question
Indra's burial site. Photo by Walhi
Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has recently learned of the tragic news that on Friday, February 27, 2015, Mr Indra Pelani, a resident of Lubuk Mandarsah village in Tebo district, Jambi Provine, Sumatra and a member of the Sakato Jaya Farmers’ Association, was found dead. According to local civil society groups and newspaper reports, the security forces of Asia Pulp and Paper are reported to have resorted to the brutal beating, abduction and extra-judicial killing of Mr Indra Pelani a leader in the local farmers’ union.
RAN mourns the loss of Pak. Indra, an effective advocate for farmer and community land rights, and stands in solidarity with his family and community that have suffered this tragic loss. RAN condemns those that took part in this reprehensible act of violence, and the long-standing history of disproportionate and unjustifiable force used by APP’s security forces. We call on APP to fully collaborate in an immediate, impartial and inclusive investigation which should include the local government, local community, NGOs, the National Forest Council (DKN) and the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM). Furthermore APP must give every assistance to local authorities to ensure the criminal prosecution of all persons accused of these crimes. In addition, APP should suspend all staff from the security units implicated in this case and take steps to ensure they do not collude in destroying or fabricating evidence.
While we are encouraged that APP has suspended the security guards implicated in this case, Pak Indra’s tragic killing bolsters doubts about the seriousness of APP’s commitment to respect human rights and resolve social conflict and underscores the urgent need for APP to work with communities, civil society and government to improve and scale up how it is addressing the pervasive social and land conflicts found across its concessions.
A more detailed report of the event is available, here.
Information about the conflict in Lubuk Mandarsah and APP’s performance in meeting its social responsiblity commitments are included in the following report, located here.
"A forest that is the only place where rhinos, tigers, elephants, and orangutans coexist is under threat from planned infrastructure, mining, logging, and plantation projects, warns a new report from the Rainforest Action Network (RAN)."
"You shouldn't have to worry that installing a new hardwood floor in your kitchen will rob Siberian tigers of their home. Since 1900, we've had a law in this country, the Lacey Act, that prohibits trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally taken, possessed, transported, or sold. And since 2008, that law has also prohibited the importation of illegally sourced wood products. The problem is real: According to a report from the United Nations and Interpol, between 15 and 30 percent of the wood traded in the world comes from illegal logging."
Almost six months after the release of its Sustainable Forest Management Policy, Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd (APRIL)—the second-largest Indonesian pulp & paper company—continues business-as-usual rainforest destruction, betraying the spirit and substance of its policy.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported in May that APRIL-owned PT RAPP cleared massive swaths of carbon-rich peatlands on Pulau Padang, an island off the Sumatran coast that APRIL promised to help restore. Members of island community Desa Bagan Melibur have called on APRIL to terminate operations on their community land, and Desa Bagan Melibur’s May 17 protest is the most recent clash in a stark legacy of land disputes between APRIL and Padang’s thirteen villages since 2009.
Pulau Padang’s peatlands store millions of tons of carbon and are home to endangered species and communities that depend on these forests for their livelihoods. You could also say the island itself is endangered: decaying peat causes the low-lying island to subside, and scientists warn that if no action is taken, Padang may very well be under sea level and useless for any type of cultivation by 2050.
APRIL’s forest policy itself is rife with loopholes and allows APRIL to continue slashing natural forests in its concessions through December and source rainforest fiber until 2020. Yet the company’s refusal to uphold even its weak policy commitments brings APRIL’s intentions entirely into doubt. In addition to the Pulau Padang case, earlier this year, APRIL suppliers were caught clearing natural forests on legally protected peat land in Borneo and high conservation value forest on peat land in Riau. In the latter case, not only were internationally protected ramin trees cut down, but APRIL supplier PT Triomas allegedly attempted to hide the evidence by burying the contraband logs.
There is mounting recognition that APRIL’s policy and actions are insufficient and not credible. Last Friday, RAN and an international collation of allies co-authored a letter highlighting the severe shortcomings in APRIL’s policies, such as the lack of a moratorium on natural forest and peat land conversion, unclear commitments on resolving social conflicts, and the policy’s narrow scope, which does not extend to cover APRIL’s sister companies within owner Sukanto Tanoto’s rogue cartel of companies, such as Toba Pulp Lestari, Sateri, and Asian Agri. The letter also points to the inadequacy and questionable credibility of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) APRIL set up to help develop, implement, and monitor the forest policy in a transparent and independent manner.
APRIL’s new policy and the SAC risk being nothing but a parade of environmental lip service built on teetering scaffolds of environmental destruction, social conflict, and corruption. Customers and financiers must cut ties with APRIL and other companies owned by Sukanto Tanoto and pressure APRIL to end rainforest clearing and respect community rights.
//www.youtube.com/embed/uozNAWnuqPU?rel=0&vq=hd720Please take action now to protect the extraordinary Leuser Ecosystem forever! You can read more from Tezar below: Hello, My name is Tezar Pahlevie. This year I was honored by winning the 2013 GRASP Conservation award for my team’s work restoring rainforests damaged by illegal palm oil plantations, but now, a dangerous push from palm oil companies could see all our hard work undone. I write from my home in Aceh, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, because the people and the place I love most are in danger and I urgently need support from people around the world to save them. Please join me in asking the governor of Aceh to protect the world class Leuser Ecosystem by nominating it as a new UNESCO World Heritage site. This is a really scary time for me, because the governor of Aceh has on his desk a disastrous plan that would remove crucial protections from the Leuser Ecosystem, opening up huge areas of some of the world’s most biologically diverse forests to major industrial development. This new plan could be signed by the governor at any time. The six million acre Leuser Ecosystem is home to the densest population of orangutans remaining anywhere and it is the only place where orangutans, tigers, elephants, rhinos and sun bears live in the same forest together.Nearly four million people depend on the rainforests of the Leuser Ecosytem to provide them with clean water for drinking, irrigation and food production. I am really sad and frustrated because every day and every month I see the destruction of the forests around my home. We in Aceh have experienced the dangerous floods that come after the logging and destroy people’s homes, livelihoods and in some cases, takes the lives of our friends or family. Witnessing all this destruction breaks my heart. We have a different vision for Aceh. We must protect the Leuser Ecosystem and the people who rely on it. The Aceh people have long fought to protect these forests because they provide us with clean water, food and are important for the next generation. It is urgent that the governor of Aceh hears from you now. Just recently, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) identified the Leuser Ecosystem as one of the world’s foremost “irreplaceable areas” that must be protected to preserve biodiversity. I stand with scientists from across the world who are right now calling on the governor of Aceh to protect our forests by nominating the region to become a new UNESCO World Heritage site. It gives me hope that by people across the world calling on the governor, he will listen to the people instead of the companies that want to destroy our forests, and work to find a balance that will protect the forests and the livelihoods of Aceh’s people. Please take action today to automatically send a fax to Governor Dr. Zaini Abdullah asking him to listen to the traditional wisdom of Aceh’s people by supporting the nomination of the Leuser Ecosystem as a new UNESCO World Heritage site. Semangat - keep the spirit, Tezar Pahlevie Conservationist and 2013 GRASP Conservation Award Winner