Saturday, March 24, 2012
URGENT HELP NEEDED TO SAVE ORANGUTANS AND PEAT FORESTS IN ACEH, INDONESIA
The above photo was taken in Sarawak. This is exactly what the Peat Forests of Aceh will look like unless action is taken. Endless rows of evil oil palms. The Orangutans will be homeless. There is time...you can help. - Peter
Please take a few minutes to acquaint yourselves with the following case, which although apparently minor, has very important implications for environmental and forest governance, social justice, spatial planning, carbon emissions, and transparency in Indonesia. Attached are 2 draft letters: one to the judges currently trying a legal case in Banda Aceh, Sumatra Indonesia, and the other to the President of Indonesia.
The case has many threads and aspects, but the basics are as follows:
On August 25th, 2011, the Governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf, issued a permit to a local oil palm company, PT Kallista Alam, to convert 1,605ha of deep peat in the Tripa peat swamps on the west coast of Aceh into an oil palm plantation.
The area is peat swamp forest, and home to the remains of Tripa's population of the Critically Endangered Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii).
The area in question has peat depths of over 3m over most of it is believed to be deeper than 7m in parts.
The Tripa peat swamps are part of the Leuser Ecosystem, which was designated in 2008 as a National Strategic Area for environmental protection, in the National Spatial plan. Under the Spatial Planning Law of 2007 (UU No.26/2007) contravention of the law by Government officials, companies and individuals represents a criminal act, punishable by heavy fines and long prison sentences.
In the first edition (issued in May 2011) of the map showing primary forests and peat lands in which it is forbidden to issue new permits (Peta Indikativ Penundaan Izin) under the Presidential Instruction 10/2011 (known as the “moratorium on new permits”) as part of the Government's commitment to the reduction of carbon emissions from deforestation, the area was very clearly shown as PROTECTED and off limits.
On October 24th, 2011, a coalition of local NGO's sent a legal notice letter to the Governor explaining that unless he immediately withdrew the permit, they would take legal action to demand its revocation. On November 23rd, 2011, the local branch of the national coalition of environmental NGOs in Indonesia (Walhi) filed a case at the Court of National Administration (PTUN) in Banda Aceh against the Governor and PT Kallista Alam.
On the same day, members of disenfranchised local communities in Tripa reported the issuing of the permit as a CRIMINAL ACT to the National Police HQ in Jakarta (MABES POLRI). They reported it to the National Police rather than the Aceh Police, due to suspected collusion of the Aceh Police with the Governor and PT Kallista Alam. Ironically, the National Police then sent a letter to the Aceh Police ordering them to investigate the case, which needless to say, has NOT been followed up.
At the end of November, in the first revision of the Map of Primary Forest and Peatlands protected under the Presidential Instruction (see point 5 above), the area previously clearly shown as protected and off limits, was now shown as unprotected (following lobbying of PT Kallista Alam to the National Land Agency, BPN, and the Ministry of Forestry, even though the permit was issued AFTER its designation as PROTECTED and BEFORE this new revision of the map).
From December 7th, 2011 to March 14th, 2012, the PTUN court in Banda Aceh has held 10 hearings.
A further two hearings still remain to be held: on March 21st, 2012, the Judges will hear the summations of the Plaintiff (Walhi) and the Defendants (the Governor of Aceh, PT Kallista Alam); and on March 28th, 2012 the judges will announce their ruling.
If the judges find in favour of the Governor and PT Kallista Alam, and the permit is allowed to stand, the implications for a wide range of environmental and social issues in Indonesia are huge.
a. It would set a precedent that Government officials can issue exploitation permits in the Leuser Ecosystem National Strategic Area, supposedly protected by the National Spatial Plan and the Law on Governance of Aceh (UU 11/2006), with impunity from the Law.
b. It would make a mockery of Indonesia's commitment to the reduction of carbon emissions from the destruction of primary forests and peat lands, as expressed by President Yudhoyono and in the Letter of Intent between Indonesia and Norway of 2010.
c. It would make of a mockery of Indonesia's laws protecting deep peat lands and highly endangered species such as the Sumatran orangutan and Sumatran tiger.
d. It would devalue the whole Governors' Climate and Forests Task Force (the GCF) initiative, of which Governor Irwandi is a founder member, and calls into question the Governor's much publicizedrole as a champion of "Green Development".
e. The long term environmental impacts, particularly drought and flooding, for local communities that have already lost most of their traditional livelihoods, will be irreversible, with the area ultimately becoming unusable due to coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion, even for the oil palm companies. All at the cost of huge carbon emissions from the degraded peat.
Given the above, we strongly urge you to express your support for the upholding of environmental and social justice in this case by taking the steps outlined below. While we recognize that there is often considerable cynicism regarding the impartiality of the legal process in Indonesia, particularly where rich and powerful government officials and companies are concerned, we believe that in this particular case, we have a short window of opportunity in which expressions of concern and support from a wide range of national and international parties can persuade the judges to make the correct ‘just’ decision, and uphold Indonesia's laws. A win in this case will represent a major turning point for thelong term protection of the Leuser Ecosystem, probably the single most important protected ecosystem in SE Asia, and send a strong message towards improving environmental governance in Indonesia.
We have attached a number of files. If you share our concerns in this case please do the following:
1: Print the “letter to Judges” handling the case on your letter head and sign it. Feel free to make changes to the letter if you wish. Then fax to the relevant numbers in the “destinations” file, and email to the other recipients (the reason we ask to fax certain recipients, is that many government officers in Indonesia do not open emails).
2: Do the same for the ‘letter to President” file, using the relevant fax numbers and email addresses in destinations file.
We have provided some attachments with background on the case which can be sent with the emailed letters to the President: a petition 21 village leaders in Tripa sent to the Governor of Aceh in June 2010 requesting the protection of the Tripa swamps; a chronology of the case. In the letters there are also links to: the “Tripa Truths” information sheets which a wealth of background on Tripa and this case; and a UNEP publication, “Orangutans and the Economics of Sustainable Forest Management in Sumatra”, which contains figures on projected carbon emissions from Tripa under different land uses. Ironically Governor Irwandi wrote a forward to this report.
If you require more information, but especially also to confirm that emails and faxes, please contact T.M.Zulfikar of Walhi Aceh (for Bahasa Inonesia speakers) at firstname.lastname@example.org , or Deddy Ratih of Walhi Nasional at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for English speakers.
Finally, a link to a short film about Tripa can be found on the www.walhi.or.id website, and the following are links to various press stories covering earlier stages of the case.
We thank you in advance for your support in this important case. Please feel free to forward this email to friends and colleagues, and your embassy in Indonesia.
WALHI/FoE Indonesia and partners
I regret I was unable to include the attached letters but I am sure that if you contact the email addresses above they will forward them to you.