A one-year moratorium on palm oil plantations: Government must immediately restore community rights

79
Lush forest turns into arid land after being used as oil palm plantation. (photo: Prive. Doc)

Communities are forced to sign agreements and approve existing licenses, even though the value of compensation offered for land used is quite unfair. For example, Wetaku residents in Kais Darat District (2014) only received compensation value for their land that was used by ANJ’s subsidiary valued at Rp77,175 per hectare or Rp77 per meter, while PT APM in Kampung Bupul paid only Rp17,000 per hectare (Pusaka 2019).

IO, Jakarta – Commemorating one year of oil palm plantation moratorium marked by the issuance of Presidential Instruction (Inpres) No. 8/2018 on the oil palm plantation moratorium, the Pusaka Foundation holds a media discussion with several journalists in Jakarta, on Tuesday, September 17, 2019 to share the results of its studies and monitoring of the implementation of the Inpres.

Tigor Hutapea, one of the presenters, took the cases of the provinces of West Kalimantan (Pontianak), Papua and West Papua. From the case examples in the provinces of Papua and West Papua where the area of ​​oil palm plantations reaches around 1,580,000 hectares with 53 oil palm companies as managers, while in Palangkaraya, the oil palm plantations cover more than 235 hectares with 17 oil plantation companies. Tigor conveyed Pusaka’s findings that currently there is a clearing of new land covering an area of ​​228,000 hectares, mostly in Merauke and Boven Digoel districts.

In the context of Papua, the foundation found, over an area covered by Law Number 21 of 2001 concerning Papua Province’s Special Autonomy, an article regarding the transfer of rights and use of customary land is regulated. Every party which requires customary land for any purpose must be carried out through community consultation and agreement before the issuance of a permit to obtain and grant rights by the relevant authority. In practice in the field, oil palm plantations generally operate without any deliberation with or free consent from the community from the outset.

Weak control over the process of granting permits resulted in local officials freely granting permits that exceeded the provisions of the area of ​​land tenure, which is a limit of land use rights for large plantations of 20,000 per hectares in each province and 100,000 hectares throughout Indonesia. Pusaka found that the area of ​​the company group exceeds the maximum limit. The annexation of land rights occurs through a mechanism of granting permits to a handful of certain business entities which are carried out in violation of the law and customary rights of the citizens. The huge scandal of massive land grabs thus appears normal, smooth and without any objections.

The state and corporations also use intimidation and violence, promises of payoffs (“welfare”), and the provision of compensation which results in citizens being forced to surrender their land rather than having their land forcibly taken away without compensation or employment.

Note that in 2013, Ben Brahim S. Bahat, Regent of Kapuas Regency, Central Kalimantan Province, issued a Decree of the Regent regarding the termination of operational activities of PBS (Private Large Plantation) companies that have not been clear and clean. In reality, there are still a number of companies still engaging in unethical, illegal and just plain dirty activities.

Based on analysis of satellite images (2019), it is estimated that around 228,510 hectares of forest area have been lost (through deforestation), turned into oil palm plantations. The highest rates of deforestation are in Papua Province (around 164,599 hectares), mainly in the areas of Merauke and Boven Digoel. (ohw)