Andy Tait became the second Greenpeace campaigner deported from Indonesia in less than a week.
Tait, who was in Indonesia to visit areas of forest and peatland allegedly cleared in Sumatra by companies that supply Asia Pulp & Paper, was detained at Jakarta’s international airport when leaving the country. He was interviewed by immigration officials and then deported, despite holding an official business visa and having entered the country without incident last week.
Tait’s deportation came just days after Greenpeace UK’s Executive Director John Sauven was prevented from entering Indonesia. Immigration officials refused to explain why Sauven — who had a valid business visa — was not allowed to enter the country, but suspicion immediately fell on pressure from the private sector, specifically interests that have been targeted by Greenpeace’s anti-deforestation campaign. One high-placed official acknowledged as such, but wasn’t willing to speak on the record.
A network of tracks in a huge deforested area among pristine forest. © Greenpeace / Daniel Beltra
Reports in Indonesian media seem to support the official’s claim. Tait was earlier stopped by an immigration official when he tried to travel to Sumatra. During that incident, the official attempted to use a deportation letter that contained a number of errors and lacked an official stamp. Officials later “[fabricated] a story Tait had falsified his documents to come to Indonesia” but the UK Embassy quashed that assertion by confirming the validity of Tait’s passport, according to Greenpeace.
Greenpeace said the incidents reflect a smear campaign against Greenpeace in Indonesia.
“Greenpeace is coming under attack in Indonesia because of our work to stop deforestation in the country,” said Nur Hidayati, head of Greenpeace’s Indonesia office. “The strength of this attack has increased significantly as our work has focused on APP’s role in rainforest destruction.”
“But blocking Greenpeace campaigners from Indonesia won’t stop our work to end deforestation in the country and won’t help APP to hide from the truth about their role in rainforest destruction. The company is linked to corruption, illegal logging scandals and community conflicts but it appears to operate with impunity.”
A spokesman for APP had no comment on the action against Sauven.
“It is a matter for the Indonesian government,” said the spokesmen.
Sauven’s immigration incident came the same day a U.S. group that advocates on behalf of Indonesian pulp and paper suppliers launched an anti-Greenpeace web site.
Greenpeace is in the midst of a campaign against APP, which it says is destroying key tiger habitat and carbon-rich peatlands in Riau and Jambi provinces on the island of Sumatra. The campaign has highlighted products that contain “mixed tropical hardwoods”, which indicate they are sourced from logging of rainforests.
Why is Indonesia afraid of Greenpeace?
(10/18/2011) Last week Indonesian immigration officials in Jakarta blocked Greenpeace director John Sauven from entering the country. Sauven, who two weeks earlier had obtained the proper business visa for his visit from the Indonesian embassy in London, was scheduled to convene with his team in Jakarta, travel to the island of Sumatra, and meet with officials and Indonesian businesses at a forestry conference. The following day, Greenpeace campaigner Andrew Tait was harassed by unknown individuals who attempted to serve him with a deportation warrant.
(09/27/2011) Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday vowed to dedicate the last three years of his presidency to ‘deliver enduring results that will sustain and enhance the environment and forests of Indonesia’, reports the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), which hosted his speech. President Yudhoyono emphasized the importance of forests in mitigating climate change, safeguarding biodiversity, and helping alleviate poverty. He said conserving and sustainably managing Indonesia’s forests is not necessarily at odds with growing the economy.
(07/27/2011) Indonesia’s forests were cleared at a rate of 1.5 million hectares per year between 2000 and 2009, reports a new satellite-based assessment by Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI), an NGO. Expansion of oil palm and wood-pulp plantations were the biggest drivers of deforestation, yet account for a declining share of the national economy. The study, which compared year 2000 data with 2009 Landsat images from NASA, found that Indonesia’s forest cover declined from 103.32 million hectares to 88.17 million hectares in ten years. Since 1950 Indonesia lost more than 46 percent of its forests.
(05/16/2011) Deep in the rainforests of Malaysian Borneo in the late 1980s, researchers made an incredible discovery: the bark of a species of peat swamp tree yielded an extract with potent anti-HIV activity. An anti-HIV drug made from the compound is now nearing clinical trials. It could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year and help improve the lives of millions of people. This story is significant for Indonesia because its forests house a similar species. In fact, Indonesia’s forests probably contain many other potentially valuable species, although our understanding of these is poor. Given Indonesia’s biological richness — Indonesia has the highest number of plant and animal species of any country on the planet — shouldn’t policymakers and businesses be giving priority to protecting and understanding rainforests, peatlands, mountains, coral reefs, and mangrove ecosystems, rather than destroying them for commodities?