Rogue Oil Palm Company must pay $26m, rules Indonesia’s Supreme Court
Global Conservation support for Leuser Ecosystem protection enabled the arrest and successfully prosecution of one of Indonesia’s most notorious palm oil companies, resulting in a $26 million fine upheld in Indonesia’s Supreme Court, one of the first major rulings for illegal forest destruction upheld in the country’s history.
The decision is a major victory for HaKA, Global Conservation’s advocacy, legal and public relations partner in Aceh, Sumatra, and all the dedicated people seeking justice for burning down one of the Sumatran orangutan's last strongholds.
Kallista Alam was convicted of using fire to clear land by a district court. The latest decision upholds that ruling, which the company challenged. The government is prosecuting four more of the biggest firms in a case that is unprecedented both for the scale of the official response and the severity of the punishments that have been handed down.
Male orangutan in Tripa. Photo: Mike Griffith.
Burning of the Tripa Swamp in 2012. Photo: Paul Hilton
Intact Tripa Tropical Rainforest, ideal Orangutan habitat. Photo: Paul Hilton
The other good news is that three of the biggest buyers of palm oil from the Leuser Ecosystem region—Musim Mas Group, Wilmar International and Golden Agri-Resources—have adopted policies that commit to halting the bulldozers in their supply chains, including in the operations of their suppliers in Tripa.
Rainforest Action Network (RAN), a Global Conservation grantee, and HaKA have led the charge to pressure buyers of palm oil to regulate their suppliers and help slow destruction and illegal clearing of the most important wildlife habitats.
The bad news is that other areas of the Tripa peatland and the Leuser Ecosystem continue to be bulldozed every day and time is running out to save the last stands of forested peatlands in Tripa.
Tripa is one of the last remaining strongholds of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) and is also part of the Leuser Ecosystem, the only place in the world where the unique Sumatran varieties of the rhino, tiger, elephant and orangutan all still live in the wild. The Aceh provincial government established a protected zone in Kallista’s former concession earlier this year.
Environment and Forestry Ministry Siti Nurbaya praised the ruling. “We really appreciate the court’s decision,” she said on Saturday. The ruling, she added, comes at an opportune time, as forest fires burn across Sumatra and Kalimantan and blanket the region with haze.
“Besides the material ruling, this was needed to fill the people with a sense of justice,” Siti said. “I think we are very happy. I will follow up this development by executing the ruling.” This important precedent upholding a $26 million fine and criminal sentences will make other illegal operators think twice before destroying Sumatra’s last tropical forests and wildlife habitats.
For an overview of the destruction of Leuser Ecosystem for palm oil plantations, see Sydney Morning Post Report here.
Farwiza Farhan of Forest, Nature and Environment Aceh (HAkA), Global Conservation’s partner in Leuser Ecosystem, also welcomed the ruling, but she pointed out the threats still facing Leuser due to Aceh’s controversial new spatial plan, which the province’s parliament passed last year but which critics say is illegal because it never received central government approval and doesn’t mention the Leuser Ecosystem, a nationally imposed strategic area.
The plan, Farwiza said, “effectively legalizes numerous illegal roads, many of which have already been cut through the forests, and it opens up vast areas for potential new, timber, mining and plantation concessions.
“Despite the win against PT Kallista Alam in Tripa, we still have a much more desperate and urgent fight ahead of us to protect Aceh’s forests and people from another, major, and totally avoidable emerging disaster.”
Quotes from from Mongabay and other sources.
To enable 'No Kill, No Cut' protection for endangered national parks and world heritage sites with Global Park Defense