Press Release - Indonesia: The Governor of Jambi Province must take action to tackle unscrupulous conduct of palm oil plantation PT Asiatic Persada

Press Release - Indonesia: The Governor of Jambi Province must take action to tackle unscrupulous conduct of palm oil plantation PT Asiatic Persada

PRESS INFORMATION: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 7 October 2013

Nurman Nuri, Leader of the Suku Anak Dalam group 113 of Pinang Tinggi in the Indonesian province of Jambi, stated in a press conference held on 3 October 2013 at the office of Indonesian NGO CAPPA:

"We demand that the Governor of Jambi Province immediately revokes the HGU (Business Use Permit) of PT Asiatic Persada, as since its establishment in the 1980s no benefits at all have been derived by the indigenous Suku Anak Dalam living in this territory, only misery."

PT Asiatic Persada is a palm oil plantation in operation since 1986 and holds a HGU for 20,000 ha of land in Batanghari and Muaro Jambi districts of Jambi Province, Sumatra, Indonesia, and has had profound impacts on the livelihoods and land rights of the indigenous Suku Anak Dalam in both districts. On 9 – 11 August 2011, for instance, acts of violence took place in the territory of Sungai Beruang, in which around 80 homes were destroyed by the Mobile Brigade Police (BRIMOB), and one local person shot with a rubber bullet.

The escalation of conflict into violence led to negotiations between the Suku Anak Dalam and PT Asiatic Persada, facilitated by the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO) of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) (the lending arm of the World Bank, which finances the owner of PT Asiatic Persada, Singapore-based conglomerate Wilmar) and the Jambi Province government in the form of a Joint Mediation Team (JOMET). However, negotiations have now stalled as PT Asiatic Persada has been sold off by Wilmar to PT Agro Mandiri Semesta (PT AMS) of the Ganda Group, without any prior consultation with the affected local communities, and whilst JOMET mediation was still underway. The new management of PT Asiatic Persada has now chosen to continue mediations through a government-composed team representing Batanghari district.

It is deeply regretful that the government of Jambi Province is not fulfilling its responsibility to engage in the case of PT Asiatic Persada and hold the company to account for its violation of the rights of the indigenous Suku Anak Dalam within the concession, despite its duty to protect and secure the rights and livelihoods of its citizens. Rian Hidayat, Deputy Director of Jambi-based NGO SETARA Jambi, says:

"The Governor should immediately caution PT Asiatic Persada against neglecting all the negotiations that have already been carried out and the important agreements that have come out of these processes. Abandoning the fruits of this hard work by reverting to a conventional model of conflict resolution at the district level demonstrates disregard for the role of JOMET, that operates in line with the Letter of Instruction of the Governor of Jambi Province No. 2122/ SPT/SETDA.EKBANG-4.2/IV/2012, and that is still operational so long as the Instruction Letter is not yet revoked."

Feri Irawan, Director of Jambi-based NGO Perkumpulan Hijau, says:

"The Governor of Jambi Province must take responsibility if violence results from the unresolved disputes, but instead the government of Jambi is closing its eyes to a conflict that has lasted nearly 25 years. The protests being held by Suku Anak Dalam communities are not being heeded, empty promises are being made to them, and the mediation and negotiations undertaken by JOMET are being disregarded. The government is deferring to PT Asiatic Persada, despite the fact that this company’s operations are clearly fraught with problems, not only with regards to the conflict with the Suku Anak Dalam, but also because the exact area of the company’s HGU remains unclear, not to mention the fact that the company has been sold off four times between 2001 and 2013, and none of these transactions have been carried out with the agreement of the government. And yet the Governor of Jambi stays silent over all these issues."

PT Asiatic Persada has been sold and bought by a number of companies over the years. From 2001 to 2006, it was owned by British company CDC-Pacrim. Then, the plantation was sold to American company Cargill who owned it from 2006 to 2007. From 2008 to 2012, Wilmar took ownership of PT Asiatic Persada, and finally, in 2013, the company was sold off by Wilmar to PT AMS Ganda Group. PT Asiatic Persada has undergone the greatest number of handovers and has caused the longest lasting conflicts of all oil palm companies operating in Jambi Province. It is these past experiences and the on-going hardships that have motivated a number of Suku Anak Dalam communities, including those of Tanjung Lebar in Muaro Jambi, Penyerukan village in Muaro Jambi, and the SAD community of Bungku village, Batanghari, to demand that the Governor of Jambi Province immediately revoke PT Asiatic Persada’s HGU, since in all these years, the Suku Anak Dalam have derived no benefits or livelihood improvements in any shape or form from the company’s operations.

Sophie Chao from UK-based human rights organisation Forest Peoples Programme, notes:

"The handover of PT Asiatic Persada to PT AMS by Wilmar without any prior consultation with the communities involved in the JOMET-led mediation towards conflict resolution constitutes a violation of the Principles and Criteria of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), of which Wilmar is a member, and a violation of the RSPO’s Code of Conduct. If the RSPO does not take immediate action to address this situation and sanction Wilmar for its flagrant act of bad faith and lack of transparency in its sale of PT Asiatic Persada, the very accountability and legitimacy of the RSPO as a mechanism seeking to support the production of genuinely sustainable palm oil, will be jeopardised."  

Carlo Nainggolan from Indonesian NGO Sawit Watch says:

"The IFC CAO has been inefficient in successfully mediating the long-lasting conflict between the Suku Anak Dalam and PT Asiatic Persada. The IFC must urgently provide formal clarification about the procedures and agreements it has in place when client companies that are in active relations with IFC unilaterally divest themselves of holdings. If IFC clients can evade their responsibilities simply by selling operations where they get caught out for violations, the whole Performance Standard system for risk avoidance is put in jeopardy. Instead, the IFC has not responded to these issues, and the CAO is conveniently washing its hands of the problem."

Ends.  

Notes for Editors:

Contact persons for interviews:

Rukaiyah Rofiq, Executive Director, Setara Jambi, Tel: +62 81366442146, E-Mail: uki@setarajambi.org

Agustinus Karlo Lumban Raja, Head of Environment and Policy Initiative Department, Sawit Watch, Tel: +62 81385 991983, E-Mail: carlo@sawitwatch.or.id

Sophie Chao, Project Officer, Forest Peoples Programme, Tel: +62 812 95165111, E-Mail: sophie@forestpeoples.org

Related sources

Mongabay 2013 Wilmar jual Asiatic Persada. http://www.mongabay.co.id/2013/10/04/wilmar-jual-asiatic-persada-kemitraan-dengan-suku-bathin-sembilan-buyar/

Colchester M, P Anderson, A Y Firdaus, F Hasibuan & S Chao 2011 Human rights abuses and land conflicts in the PT Asiatic Persada concession in Jambi: report of an independent investigation into land disputes and forced evictions in a palm oil estate. FPP, HuMa and Sawit Watch. Available at http://www.forestpeoples.org/sites/fpp/files/publication/2011/11/final-report-pt-ap-nov-2011-low-res-1.pdf

Cover note to RSPO accompanying first complaint to Wilmar on PT Asiatic Persada sale agreement. 14th May 2013. Available at http://tinyurl.com/qjc8fv9

First complaint to Wilmar on PT Asiatic Persada sale agreement. 14th May 2013. Available at http://www.forestpeoples.org/sites/fpp/files/publication/2013/05/complaint-pt-apsalewithoutcommfpicmay2013eng.pdf

First response from Wilmar to complaint on PT Asiatic Persada sale agreement. 20th May 2013. Available at http://tinyurl.com/on3vmnq

FPP (nd) Publications: The CAO story: contesting procedural irregularities and standards violations by Wilmar and the IFC through the Compliance/Advisor Ombudsman. Available at http://www.forestpeoples.org/publications/results/taxonomy%3A645

FPP 2012 Addressing systemic problems with Wilmar International. 7th March 2012. Available at http://tinyurl.com/nj8e46e

FPP 2013a Letter to the International Finance Corporation requesting formal clarification from IFC about IFC procedures and agreements pertinent to the PT Asiatic Persada case. 4th July 2013. Available at http://tinyurl.com/okq4q4g

FPP 2013b The World Bank’s palm oil policy. 29th April 2013. Available at http://tinyurl.com/oul2pe4

Petition of the Suku Anak Dalam Batin Sembilan: RSPO, berhentilah melindungi Wilmar! October 2013.

Press release: Gubernur, berhentilah melindungi PT Asiatic Persada. 3rd October 2013.

Re: 3rd complaint about Wilmar International, PT Asiatic Persada (PT AP), (IFC Project #26271). 17th November 2011. Available at http://tinyurl.com/p8jnl7h

Response to Wilmar’s first response to complaint on PT Asiatic Persada sale agreement. 7th June 2013. Available at http://tinyurl.com/qbszwmf

Second response from Wilmar to complaint on PT Asiatic Persada sale agreement. 2nd July 2013. Available at http://tinyurl.com/qejp5dz

3rd Complaint about Wilmar International. 9th November 2011. Available at http://tinyurl.com/bqtdc9z