Pages tagged "sumatra"

Brutal Murder in APP Plantation

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.

Mongabay: Only place where rhinos, tigers, elephants, and organgutans coexist is under threat

"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)."


The Huffington Post: Tigers Don't Want Their Forests Liquidated

"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."


APRIL Makes A Mockery Of Its Own "Sustainable" Forest Policy


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.

TAKE ACTION: Tell APRIL owner Sukanto Tanoto to stop pulping Pulau Padang’s rainforests.

An Urgent Request from Indonesian Conservationists

The following post is a guest blog from Indonesian conservationist and RAN ally Tezar Pahlevie. Please watch the brief following video of Tezar speaking to RAN staff from his home province of Aceh in Sumatra, Indonesia from November 2013.


Please take action now to protect the extraordinary Leuser Ecosystem forever! You can read more from Tezar below: Hello, RAG_Tezar_Cropped_500My 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 RAG_Leuser_PH_500x500

Tell Mars, Inc. To Set an Example for the Snack Food 20

Today I visited the corporate headquarters of Mars, Inc. with Strawberry, an orphaned orangutan from Indonesia, to let the company know that consumers all across the world want Mars to stop using Conflict Palm Oil in its products. Unlike some of its fellow Snack Food 20 companies, like Kraft and Smucker’s, Mars is on the move. We have a chance to push Mars, the maker of wildly popular brands like M&Ms, Snickers, and Combos, to become an industry leader in sourcing responsible palm oil. After RAN put the snack food sector on notice last April, Mars, Inc. responded by strengthening its palm oil commitment. The company has committed to working towards sourcing 100% of its palm oil from traceable sources that are not associated with deforestation, expansion on carbon-rich peatlands and the violation of human and labor rights. Mars needs to hear from you right now! Tell the company to turn its new commitments into a global palm oil policy and take action to cut Conflict Palm Oil from its products immediately. 1. Call Mars at 1-800-627-7852. Here's a call script you can use:
“Hi, my name is [your name] from [your city]. I’m a [student, mom..] and one of your valued customers! It concerns me that your company cannot guarantee that it is not using Conflict Palm Oil in its products. Mars, Inc. must demand responsible palm oil from its suppliers and eliminate conflict palm oil from its products. I encourage you to build on Mars, Inc.’s existing palm oil procurement commitments by adopting a new global responsible palm oil procurement policy and implementation plan that ensures that the palm oil in your company’s supply chain is fully traceable, legally grown, and sourced from verified responsible palm oil producers not associated with deforestation, expansion onto carbon-rich peatlands or human and labor rights violations. Thank You!”
2. Post this message on Mars’ Facebook wall:
Hey Mars, Inc., I’m standing with orangutans, and I can’t stand by brands that use Conflict Palm Oil. Demand responsible palm oil from your suppliers and eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from your products. The power is #InYourPalm.
3. Tweet at Mars:
@MarsGlobal I can’t stand by brands that use Conflict #PalmOil. The power is #InYourPalm.
At the Mars HQ, Strawberry and I gave representatives of the company a copy of the RAN report Conflict Palm Oil: How US Snack Food Brands are Contributing to Orangutan Extinction, Climate Change and Human Rights Violations and outlined RAN's demand to cut Conflict Palm Oil. Can you call Mars and encourage the company to cut Conflict Palm Oil from its products and set an example for the rest of the Snack Food 20? And if you haven't yet, sign our petition to all of the Snack Food 20 companies, including companies like Kraft, Smucker's, and Kellogg's, in addition to Mars, to cut Conflict Palm Oil from their products.

Tackling Indonesia’s Deforestation Crisis Together

[caption id="attachment_20338" align="alignleft" width="300"]A Duta Palma-owned palm oil plantation in Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan). Until Cargill adopts supply chain safeguards and publicly discloses its supposed 'No Trade List,' this rainforest destruction will persist in its palm oil supply chain. Photo: David Gilbert A palm oil plantation in Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan). Photo: David Gilbert[/caption] Jakarta - As fires continue to burn the rainforests of Sumatra and customers around the world continue to raise the volume of their demands for deforestation-free products, a group of powerful individuals have gathered to align on how to stop this spiraling crisis. The workshop is organized under the auspices of the Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA) and the goal is to find ways to eliminate deforestation in the supply chains of the 400+ Consumer Goods Forum companies. I am encouraged that everyone here—from Indonesia’s President and regional government representatives to high level executives of international commodities corporations to the region's most active environmental NGOs—seems to understand that this issue is urgent and that they have a responsibility to play a role in achieving real and lasting solutions. Auspiciously, the President of Indonesia stated in his welcoming address that he supports the Constitutional court’s recent decision recognizing traditional ADAT (Indigenous community) land rights as separate from state forests. A lack of clear land rights and a jumbled mess of different and often conflicting land ownership maps used by different levels of governments in Indonesia lies at the heart of the rampant rainforest destruction and human rights violations taking place throughout the country. The President discussed his government's initiative to develop 'One map for the Nation’ that all levels of Indonesia’s government can use that show the legal land tenure, ownership and usage rights for all lands in Indonesia. This is an important step, and inclusion of ADAT lands in this map could lead to the recognition of Indigenous people’s customary land rights. According to the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), there are an estimated 40 million hectares (nearly 100 million acres) of ADAT lands in Indonesia, most of which are unrecognized. Legal recognition and respect for human and land rights is urgently needed as Indigenous people and rural communities continue to have their land stolen from them to make way for more palm oil and pulp and paper plantations. Now that the stage has been set there is an opportunity for governments, consumer and producer companies and civil society to develop action-oriented partnerships to tackle deforestation and human rights violations in the pulp and paper and palm oil sectors. But real, concrete actions must be committed to today if we want to end deforestation and human rights violations in Indonesia. For example, companies can require that pulp and paper or palm oil companies that clear rainforests and violate human rights are not welcome in their supply chains and products. And in time, the Indonesian government can create mechanisms to better recognize and respect Indigenous Peoples' rights. RAN has developed a set of recommendations with our civil society partners in Indonesia that will help to protect Indonesia's rainforests and the people who live in and depend upon them. There is reason for guarded optimism coming out of these meetings—I anticipate that some companies will return home with a deeper commitment to zero deforestation and conflict in their supply chain. I also expect that we will need to continue to hold companies and policy makers accountable and to push them to move quickly to implement the solutions being generated. Your support will be crucial in the coming months to keep the pressure on and move the ball forward.

Clearing the Smog: RAN Pushes Companies and Governments to End Indonesia’s Deforestation Crisis

sing smogOn my way to Jakarta yesterday for a series of meetings with the Tropical Forest Alliance—a consortium of government and corporate leaders from around the world working to confront the world's deforestation crisis—I stopped for a layover in Singapore. I was immediately hit over the head by the urgency of our task. There, just outside the airport windows, the once rich rainforests of Sumatra hung suspended as a thick, sickly smoke polluting the tropical air. While the historic haze engulfing Singapore and parts of Malaysia right now is shocking and record-breaking, the tragic reality is that it is just the most visible symptom of the much deeper problem I traveled here to address. Widespread, illegal burning to clear rainforests and peatlands for palm oil and pulp and paper plantation expansion has become a well-established yearly ritual in Sumatra and Borneo. Rapidly expanding pulp, paper and palm oil plantations are driving one of the world’s highest rates of deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. There is an urgent need to transform the way that these commodities are produced. Irreplaceable wildlife species like the orangutan and Sumatran tiger face a very real threat of extinction in our lifetimes, while land conflicts and human rights abuses plague rural and Indigenous communities across Borneo and Sumatra. I traveled across the world because a promising new opportunity is emerging that could deliver a transformation in these sectors with the potential to break the link between pulp, paper and palm oil production and deforestation and human rights violations. The Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA) is a partnership between major companies (including the makers of many of America’s most popular foods) and governments. TFA aspires to achieve 100%-deforestation-free commodities by 2020. The TFA was launched last year at Rio+20 by the Consumer Goods Forum—which includes 400 major global companies—and the U.S. government. Since then, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Norwegian governments have joined the alliance. The TFA’s June 27th – 28th workshop aims to bring together the key players who produce, consume and set policies that impact the way pulp, paper and palm oil are produced. Singapore-Smog-Eases-As-Indonesian-Planes-Waterbomb-Fires-430x244 Rainforest Action Network is attending the workshop to encourage companies and governments to commit to decisive action to end deforestation and human rights violations. We will also call for the TFA to strengthen its commitment by pledging to achieve 100% deforestation AND social conflict/slave labor free commodities by 2020. The US government has an important role to play as the founder of the TFA. Seven leading groups, including Rainforest Action Network, have produced a report titled “Breaking the Link between Commodities and Climate Change” that outlines the steps the US government needs to take to tackle rainforest destruction and land conflicts associated with these commodities. One of the most important roles for governments is to support land management reforms in key countries so communities’ rights to their customary lands are recognized, respected and maintained. My greatest hope is that the international media attention being generated by the record smoke pollution enveloping Singapore right now will serve as a wake up call that pressures the members of the TFA to move quickly and meaningfully. The time for talking in circles and shifting blame is over. We still have a narrow window of opportunity to work together to create systemic change to preserve our remaining rainforests and stop the human suffering that producing these commodities currently causes. But that window is shrinking, and fast. Stay tuned for further dispatches this week from Jakarta as the meetings proceed.

Good News for Species on the Brink of Extinction in Tripa

[caption id="attachment_19974" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Photo: David Gilbert"][/caption] UPDATE, 9.26.12:  BREAKING: Within the next 24 hours, Kallista Alam, 1 of the 5 major palm oil companies operating in Tripa, will have their operating permit WITHDRAWN. This is a highly important precedent-setting case, as this is the first in Aceh's (Sumatra, Indonesia) entire governmental history. RAN members like you have helped to keep the pressure on the Indonesian government to hold palm oil companies accountable for their massive deforestation. This imminent historic decision sends a strong message to the palm oil & pulp industry that the status quo of operating illegally with impunity will no longer be tolerated as business as usual. It is CRUCIAL now to keep the international spotlight on other instances of rainforest destruction and human rights abuses so this milestone case becomes a pattern and not an anomaly. **************************************************** In a huge turn of events last week and a massive step in the right direction for the Tripa peat forest of Sumatra, the Administrative High Court of Medan has commanded the Governor of Aceh to withdraw the permit of palm oil company PT Kallista Alam. This is the very same palm oil company that played a role in the tragic illegal burning of the Tripa rainforest last Spring, which threatened this delicate peat swamp, home to the highest population density of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan anywhere on Earth. PT Kallista Alam’s permit was originally issued by former Governor Yusuf in August 2011 to allow 1,605 hectares (just under 4,000 acres) of deep peat in the Tripa forest to be converted into oil palm plantations. The permit was issued despite the fact that the area of Tripa covered by the permit is protected by national laws that prevent any development that causes environmental degradation or destruction. A police report was filed by the local community to the National Police in Jakarta, and Indonesian environmental group WALHI sought legal justice by filing a case against Governor Yusuf and PT Kallista Alam for the illegal expansion into the Tripa forest. [caption id="attachment_19976" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Photo: Carlos Qulies"][/caption] But the story only thickens from there. This past March, hundreds of fires raged through the Tripa peat swamp as palm oil companies rushed to clear the forest before the verdict was announced—with none other than PT Kallista Alam leading the pack. To the dismay of environmentalists and orangutan lovers alike, the Indonesian court decided to throw out the case and WALHI filed for an appeal. RAN and Tripa supporters from all around the world sent thousands of emails, faxes, letters and petitions to the Indonesian government, and Tripa became the subject of a National Police investigation into the crimes and illegal burning by the expanding oil palm plantations. That brings us to today. Since the appeal was filed, the world has witnessed continued burning of Tripa— fires so bad that they created a regional air quality crisis and made the extinction of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan a more imminent reality. The High Court's decision to grant the appeal and its order to the Governor of Aceh to withdraw PT Kallista Alam's permit is not just an achievement for WALHI, but also a victory for the communities of Aceh and the hundreds of national and international groups concerned with the conservation of Tripa. This decision sets a new precedent that law enforcement is key for the protection of Indonesia’s forests. WALHI expects this may be the beginning of “momentum of law enforcement in a broader sense” concering environmental issues in Indonesia. [caption id="attachment_18531" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Photo: Carlos Quiles"][/caption] But this is not the end of the road for saving the threatened rainforests of Tripa. Rather, it’s only a small step in the right direction. Now it’s up to Governor Zaini Abdullah to follow through with his instructions and cancel PT Kallista Allam’s permit. Beyond revoking the permit, other necessary action is needed by the courts in order to protect Tripa: evaluate the licenses of the other palm oil companies operating illegally and revoke any permits in violation of legal procedure, and punish the guilty parties who issued any illegal permits. Tripa is an important test case to see if Indonesian Police and Government really can uphold the law—the survival of Tripa depends on it. This small but meaningful win for Tripa was made possible with the help of the thousands of people worldwide who took actions to put a spotlight on Tripa and created international pressure to save this peatland. There’s still a long road ahead, but we will continue to call for support and together we can continue to gain significant victories towards saving Tripa once and for all.

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