Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry amends moratorium map and excludes oil palm concession issued in breach of moratorium

Note: And on it goes… Climate change?  What climate change?

By Chris Lang, 14th December 2011
Cross-Posted from REDD Monitor

Indonesia's Ministry of Forestry amends moratorium map and excludes oil palm concession issued in breach of moratorium

In August 2011, Irwandi Yusuf, governor of Aceh, signed a permit for a palm oil concession in the Tripa Peat Swamp, apparently in breach of the moratorium on new forest concessions under the Indonesia-Norway US$1 billion REDD deal.

The permit allowed PT Kallista Alam to clear 1,605 hectares for oil palm plantations. Walhi Aceh filed a legal case against Governor Irwandi in the Aceh administrative court. REDD-Monitor wrote about this story here, based on a press release from Walhi Aceh.

During the UN climate negotiations in Durban, the story was picked up by Reuters andAssociated Press. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the chair of the REDD+ task force, gave a critical response to Reuters:

“I spent four years in Aceh during the tsunami reconstruction. Opening up Kuala Tripa – an area with high conservation value and home to many animals endemic to Indonesia – is a grave mistake. . . While we recognise the need for the palm oil industry to also grow, signing an agreement with a palm oil company to allow the conversion of protected peat land into palm oil plantations, very clearly breaks the moratorium.”

Ahmad Fauzi Mas’ud, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Forestry, told Associated Press that, “We haven’t received the documents for this license yet. But if it’s inside peatland, it can’t be converted.”

Tim Koalisi Penyelamatan Rawa Tripa (TKPRT – Coalition Team for the Rehabilitation of Tripa) produced a map of the concession overlaid on the moratorium map. The concession area is clearly marked red, and therefore off-limits under the moratorium for conversion to oil palm plantations.

At this point, the story takes a strange turn. The moratorium map is revised every six months. The first revision of the map was released on 22 Novemeber 2011 and the red area of PT Kallista Alam’s concession has gone, as the maps below indicate:

May 2011 version of sheet 0519 of the moratorium map (above).

November 2011 version of sheet 0519 of the moratorium map (above).

A comparison of the two maps show that the concession area is not the only red area (i.e. protected area under the moratorium) to have been removed from the map.

Hadi Daryanto, secretary general at the Ministry of Forestry told the Jakarta Post that the permit should not have been issued under the terms of the moratorium:

“It’s clearly a violation because the area in question is a peat forest. On the moratorium map it’s clearly marked out as protected, but in the revision that followed, it was somehow excluded. That exclusion in itself is also a violation because it occurred after the moratorium went into effect.”

Elfian Effendi, Greenomics Indonesia Executive Director asks how this could possibly have happened. In a press release (below) Elfian says,

“This is a truly embarrassing state of affairs. That implementation of the moratorium has been characterized by a lack of synergy and coordination.”

Below Greenomics Indonesia’s press release is a clarification issued by Kamaruddin, legal council to the Coalition of Communities Concerned for Tripa.


UPDATE – 15 December 2011: Today, Greenomics Indonesia sent REDD-Monitor a response to the legal counsel to Coalition of Communities Concerned for Tripa. It is posted in full, below.


Revised moratorium map gets Aceh governor’s problematic palm plantation license off the hook

Press Release by Greenomics, Jakarta, 12 December 2011

Greenomics Indonesia can reveal that the first revision of the indicative map on the moratorium on the granting of new forestry licenses for natural forest and peatland, which was adopted by virtue of Minister of Forestry Decree No. SK. 7416/Menhut-VII/IPSDH/2011, dated 22 November 2011, validates the issuing of palm plantation licenses by Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf for peatland that was previously covered by the moratorium.

“One block of peatland that is included within the palm plantation concession of PT Kalista Alam and which extends to 1,065 hectares in Nagan Raya Regency, the license for which was granted by Irwandi, has been deleted from the first revision of the indicative moratorium map,” explained Elfian Effendi, Greenomics Indonesia Executive Director, in Jakarta on Monday (12/12/2011).

Elfian said that Sheet 0519 of the revised indicative moratorium map revealed that the area concerned was no longer colored red, as it had been in the original map.

“In fact, the peatland that is no longer colored red exceeds the area of the palm plantation concession granted by Irwandi,” Elfian continued.

Greenomics Indonesia has asked Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the chairman of the REDD+ taskforce, to provide a public explanation of what has transpired is his capacity as an official observer of the moratorium’s implementation.

“This is especially important given that Kuntoro told Reuters news agency on 8 December 2011 that the opening up of peatland in Kuala Tripa, the area where the palm plantation license was issued by Irwandi, was a grave mistake. Kuntoro also advised the Aceh Provincial Government to review its decision to grant the palm plantation license and to seek alternative land for the development of such plantations,” Elfian said.

He added that Kuntoro’s statement appeared to be at odds with the first revision of the indicative moratorium map, which removed the land covered by the license issued by the Aceh Governor from the peatland block shown in the original indicative moratorium map, which was issued on 17 June 2011.

“In fact, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Forestry, Hadi Daryanto, has stated that the license issued by the Aceh Governor violates the indicative moratorium map. If that’s the case, why has the Minister of Forestry now gone ahead and removed the peatland area in question from the revised map? This is a truly embarrassing state of affairs. That implementation of the moratorium has been characterized by a lack of synergy and coordination,” Elfian stressed.

Elfian said that Nowegian Ambassador Eivind Homme had also told Reuters on 8 December 2011 that he was surprised to hear reports of the violation of the moratorium by the Aceh Governor, and that he had asked the central government to conduct an investigation.

“By excluding the area of the palm plantation concession from the area covered by the moratorium in the revised indicative map, the central government will now need to also investigate its own actions to find out why this has happened,” Elfian said.

A Clarification of the Press Release by Greenomics on 12 December 2011.

By: Kamaruddin, legal council to the Coalition of Communities Concerned for Tripa.
13th December 2011.

The press release by Greenomics on 12/12/2011 must not be allowed to confuse the legal issues concerning the permit issued by the Governor of Aceh on 25 August 2011.

While Elfian of Greenomics points out that the revised Moratorium map issued with the Minister of Forestry’s Decree No. SK. 7416/Menhut-VII/IPSDH/2011, dated 22 November 2011, removes the area of the new concession license issued to PT Kallista Alam from the original Moratorium map, this does NOT substantively affect the legal infractions that community members reported at the National Police Headquarters on 23 November 2011.

It is important to view the legal validity of the new concession issued by the Governor of Aceh within the wider legal context in Indonesia, not just the Moratorium on new permits established by the Presidential Instruction No. 10 of 2011. In their press release, Greenomics unfortunately fail to point out that the new concession breaks several national laws and regulations, in addition to the Presidential Instruction, all of which have higher legal status than the Minister of Forestry’s Decree:

1. Law No.11 of 2006 concerning the Governance of Aceh, which under article 150 mandates the protection of the Leuser Ecosystem and its restoration; and article 147 which states that the development of Aceh must conform to the National Spatial Plan and be based on sustainability, protection of environmental functions, appropriate utilization, and equitability;

2. Law no. 26 of 2007 concerning Spatial Planning, and its derivativeGovernment Regulation 26 of 2008, in which the Leuser Ecosystem was established as an Area of National Strategic Importance for Environmental Protection. Therefore the issuance of any exploitation permits contradictory to this function within the Leuser Ecosystem constitutes a criminal act.

In the hierarchy of Indonesian legislation, a Law (Undang-Undang) has higher legal status than a Presidential Instruction (Instruksi Presiden), which is higher than a Ministerial Decree (Keputusan Menteri).

Thus, although the changes in the Moratorium Map issued with the Ministerial Decree raise serious questions about the opaque processes behind its drafting within the Ministry of Forestry, (particularly as the permit was issued by the Governor in August 2011, and was thus issued in contravention of the Moratorium Map valid at that time, namely the map of 17 June 2011), the legal action against the issuance of the concession in Tripa continues unaltered, based on the higher National Laws mentioned above.

Indeed, it is possible that the Minister of Forestry, by acknowledging the validity of the recent PT Kallista Alam license in the new Moratorium map, may also become criminally liable under these 2 Laws, the Government Regulation, and the Presidential Instruction.

(Kamaruddin, 13 December 2011).

Response to press release by legal counsel to Coalition of Communities Concerned for Tripa

Jakarta, 15 December 2011

Greenomics Indonesia feels it necessary to provide clarification regarding the press release issued by legal counsel to the Coalition of Communities Concerned for Tripa on 13 December 2011. In particular, we consider it necessary to further explain the following matters:

1) The press release, directed at Greenomics Indonesia, was highly disproportionate bearing in mind that the earlier Greenomics Indonesia press release was not addressed at the legal isssues concerning the palm plantation license in question based on the following considerations:

a) A legal process is currently being undertaken in respect of the said license by Walhi-Aceh, with the support of other civil society groups; and

b) Greenomics Indonesia is continually using non-legal means to have the abovementioned palm plantation license revoked, including by engaging in direct communication with the governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf, and the Secretary General of the Ministry of Forestry, Dr. Hadi Daryanto.

2) In the opinion of Greenomics Indonesia, our earlier press release did not give rise to any confusion as regards the legal issues involved, and in particular had no bearing on the legal proceedings currently underway in respect of the palm plantation license concerned. In the said Greenomics Indonesia press release, we confined ourselves to highlighting a lack of consistency on the part of the central government in implementing the moratorium, as shown by the fact that the area covered by the palm plantation license issued by the governor of Aceh was originally covered by the moratorium, but is now no longer covered. Greenomics Indonesia raised the point that this change was not in line with the pronouncements of Kuntoro Mangkusbroto (chairman of the REDD+ Traskforce) and Hadi Daryanto (Secretary General of the Ministry of Forestry, and also a member of the REDD+ Taskforce), who wish to see the peatland in question retained and not allocated for the development of palm plantations or other uses.

3) In highlighting the fact that the area of peatland in question in respect of a palm plantation license has been issued was originally covered by the moratorium but now is not, the Greenomics Indonesia press release will not have a substantive impact on the report prepared for the Police by the Coalition of Communities Concerned for Tripa given that the said press release did not address the legal aspects of the Coalition report. Greenomics Indonesia respects the legal process that is currently underway.

4) The press release issued by legal counsel to the Coalition of Communities Concerned for Tripa, which states that: “Greenomics unfortunately fail to point out that the new concession breaks several national laws and regulations…”. This statement is completely disproportionate and misconceived. The use of the emotive words “unfortunately” and “fail” in the said press release is highly inappropriate and is intended entirely to discredit Greenomics Indonesia’s advocacy efforts without good cause or basis in reason and/or fact bearing in mind that the Greenomics Indonesia release did not address the ongoing legal process, but rather confined itself to highlight a lack of government consistency as regards the implementation of the moratorium. We would suggest that legal counsel for Coalition of Communities Concerned for Tripa should confine themselves to presenting their opinions of the law to those involved in the ongoing legal process.

This response has been prepared in good faith for the purpose of providing substantive clarification in respect of the matters discussed above. What is important is that the goals and objectives of Coalition of Communities Concerned for Tripa and Greenomics Indonesia are similar, and our two organizations should be standing shoulder to shoulder so as to have the palm plantation license issued by the governor of Aceh in this case revoked.

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