Press Release: Companies in Papua Sue the Minister of Investment for Revocation of Forest Areas Release Permits

Jakarta, 22 June 2022 — Indigenous people from the Grime Nawa Valley, Jayapura, Papua Province, have long been haunted by the presence of the oil palm plantation company PT Permata Nusa Mandiri,  coming to their village.  The company, has cleared hundreds of hectares of forest without the approval of the wider community.

In early 2022, the Minister of Environment and Forestry issued Decree No.  01/2022 which revoked the concession permits of dozens of oil palm plantation companies in Papua, including PT Permata Nusa Mandiri (PNM).  The decision seemengly give new hope for indigenous peoples in Papua.

The Minister of Environment and Forestry Decree was then followed by the establishment of the Land Use Management and Investment Management Task Force by President Joko Widodo.  The formation of this team is stated in Presidential Decree (Keppres) No.  1 of 2022 led by the Minister of Investment / Head of the Investment Coordinating Board, Bahlil Lahadalia, assisted by the Deputy Chief Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, Minister of LHK and Minister of ATR / Head of BPN.  The Task Force reports directly to the President.

The task force’s tasks are to follow up on the revocation of mining business permits, borrow-to-use forest area permits, land use rights, and building use rights, which are based on the permit verification and clarification process from the company.

The results of the task force’s work continued with the revocation of forest area concession permits to 15 companies by the Head of BKPM on March 29, 2022. Three of the companies whose licenses were revoked were companies that had permits to release forest areas in Papua, namely PT Permata Nusa Mandiri (PNM)  in Jayapura Regency covering an area of ​​16,182.48 hectares, PT Menara Wasior (MW) in Teluk Wondama Regency covering an area of ​​28,838.82 hectares, and PT Tunas Agung Sejahtera (TAS) in Mimika Regency covering an area of ​​39,500.42 hectares, with a total area of ​​84,521.72 hectares.  The government is very serious in revoking company permits that are not in accordance with their designation and do not carry out their obligations, said Bahlil in a written statement (30/032022).

PT Tunas Agung Sejahtera and PT Permata Nusa Mandiri are the two companies that received permits for releasing forest areas under Minister Zulkifli Hasan.  He gave the release towards the end of his tenure as Minister of Forestry, who had been investigated for alleged corruption cases.  President Joko Widodo, re-appointed Zulkifli Hasan, who is also the chairman of the National Mandate Party, as Minister of Trade on 15 June 2022.

The three companies PT PNM, PT TAS, and PT MW, whose licenses were revoked, are subsidiaries of the Indo Gunta Group, whose shares and businesses are suspected to be owned and controlled by Anthoni Salim, Director of Indofood Sukses Makmur TBK, and the majority shareholder of Salim/Indofood Group.  a tycoon who controls the land and palm oil business in Indonesia.  Indogunta and IndoAgri have the same logo design.  This logo is a trademark of Indofood.  Several Indogunta and Indofood subsidiaries under IndoAgri also share the same office.

The companies oppose and challenge the government’s decision to revoke the companies’ license.  On June 14, 2022 three companies, PT PNM, PT TAS, and PT MW, challenged the decision of the Minister of Investment / Head of the Investment Coordinating Board to the Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN).  The case was registered with case numbers 166/G/2022/PTUN.JKT, 167/G/2022/PTUN.JKT, and 168/G/2022/PTUN.JKT.

This legal situation is of concern to the indigenous peoples around the concession area of ​​the plaintiff’s company and civil society organizations to defend the rights of indigenous peoples and the environment.

“The lawsuit will lengthen the path of the community’s struggle to reclaim their customary territory,” said Tigor Hutapea, a staff  of the Bentala Rakyat Heritage Foundation.  Tigor emphasized the importance of customary areas for indigenous peoples to be maintained as forests, which are useful as a source of food for indigenous peoples.

“The forest in Gime Nawa, and the surrounding area has a lot of potential.  Even the community has managed it as a conservation area based on indigenous peoples,” said Sekar Banjaran Aji, Forest Campaigner for Greenpeace Indonesia.  According to Sekar, if the presence of oil palm plantation companies is maintained, the biodiversity will be increasingly threatened and even extinct.

Therefore, to face this corporate backlash, the government must deal with it transparently, the government must disclose to the public all the considerations and results of the evaluation carried out by the Land Use Management Task Force.  The public, especially indigenous peoples, will certainly support the government’s steps to maintain the revocation.  In addition, to maintain the remaining forests, the government must accelerate the recognition of indigenous peoples and the determination of their customary territories.

Contact Person:

– Tigor Hutapea Yayasan Pusaka Bentala Rakyat: +62 812-8729-6684

– Sekar Banjaran Aji, Greenpeace Indonesia: +62 812-8776-9880

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