The contested plantation. Photo: Save Our Borneo
A palm oil company in Central Kalimantan continues to operate business as usual, despite a Supreme Court ruling confirming it has no legal permit to do so. Since 2009, PT Hati Prima Agro (HPA), a subsidiary of palm oil giant Bumitama Gunajaya Agro Group (BGA), has cleared over 7,000 ha of land in Central Kalimantan, even though their permits were revoked by the Ministry of Forestry in 2008.
In July, the Court ended a two-year legal battle between the Ministry of Forestry and HPA, ruling that the revocation of permits held, and the company was operating in violation of the law. However, according to environmental NGOs in the area, the company shows no signs of stopping its illegal activity.
“HPA has been clearing the land since 2009/2010 without a valid permit, and should immediately pick up and leave without conditions,” said Nordin, Executive Director of Save Our Borneo, the organization that initially brought attention to the permit violations.
Nordin believes that all assets of the company used for illegal activities should taken over by the state. The land that has already been cleared should become the responsibility of the local government and the remainder returned to the communities that previously managed them.
Global Forest Watch map showing oil palm concessions and recent forest loss in Antang Kalang District, Kotawaringin Timur.
Arie Rompas, the Central Kalimantan Executive Director of Friends of the Earth (Walhi), agrees that the land should be immediately seized so that its status is clear to everyone.
“A management model for the area could take several forms,” Arie said, “Rather than be returned to the company, it would be better for it to be managed by the government, or be distributed to the surrounding communities. It could also be a subject of land reform, because the area is in an region of community governance.”
Further, Arie says, “Because there have been loses to the environment due to HPA’s illegal activity, they should pay damages to fund the recovery effort. In addition, there is indication of corruption, and losses to the country.”
Walhi, in cooperation with other area NGOs is urging the Ministry of Forestry to bring another suit against the company for continuing to operate after the Supreme Court decision. In addition, they are preparing a legal position claiming environmental damages from HPA.
“We are working with other activists to confront this corporate crime.” Arie said.
BGA, one of Kalimantan’s largest oil palm companies, states on its website it intends to plant 250,000 hectares of palm oil by 2015. In addition to the above lawsuit, multiple allegations have been made against the company and its subsidiaries for setting up illegal plantations, violating its own commitments to stop clearing forests and misrepresenting its membership in the RSPO.