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DiCaprio accused of running ‘black campaign’ against Indonesian palm oil

  • Leonardo DiCaprio visited the Leuser Ecosystem in northwest Sumatra last weekend, and posted on Instagram about the need to protect it from oil palm expansion.
  • Some Indonesian officials threatened to deport him when they found out, but DiCaprio has already left the country.
  • Conservationists are often accused of fomenting “black campaigns” in Indonesia.

Leonardo DiCaprio was threatened with deportation from Indonesia on Thursday following the Hollywood actor’s visit to the embattled Leuser Ecosystem, one of Southeast Asia’s last great swaths of intact rainforest.

Indonesian officials accused DiCaprio of running a “black campaign” to discredit the country’s palm oil industry, whose rapid expansion is eating away at the archipelago’s rainforests even as it drives economic growth.

“If there are statements that discredit the government and the interests of Indonesia, he could be deported,” said Ronny F. Sompie, the country’s immigration chief, adding that if DiCaprio is “creating public disturbances and harming the state’s interest, the immigration [office] is ready to deport him.”

DiCaprio’s philanthropic foundation recently gave NGOs $3.2 million to protect Leuser, which covers an area the size of Macedonia and is home to the critically endangered Sumatran varieties of elephant, tiger, rhinoceros and orangutan.

A photo uploaded to DiCaprio’s Instagram account on Thursday. The caption read, “As the forest of the #Indonesian #LeuserEcosystem continues to be cleared to meet demand for Palm Oil, the critically endangered Sumatran #orangutan is being pushed to the brink of extinction…If we don’t stop this rampant destruction, the Leuser Ecosystem and the Sumatran orangutans that call it home could be lost forever.”

Lawmaker Firman Subagyo also called for DiCaprio’s deportation, even though the actor had already left the country. “His goal is clear,” Subagyo said. “He will definitely take a shot at oil palm plantations, and wrap it with environmental issues.”

The politician accused the NGOs that facilitated DiCaprio’s visit of undermining Indonesian sovereignty. “I’m urging the [intelligence agency] chief and the police chief to take firm action against those groups. I’m also asking immigration to deport Leonardo if he is proven to be black-campaigning our oil palm industry.”

Firman, a leader of the House commission on agriculture and forests, has spoken harshly of environmental advocates before. In 2013 he accused the World Wildlife Fund of “black campaigning.”

“Foreign NGOs like the WWF are like thieves visiting our homes to steal our treasures without us realizing it,” he said. “The NGO’s arrogance has impacted our weakened industrial competitiveness overseas, which will end worsen Indonesia’s economy.”

Leonardo DiCaprio, right, posted this photo on his Instagram page after his visit to Leuser last weekend. Farwiza Farhan, left, chairs HaKA, a local NGO, and Rudi Putra, center, is a biologist who received the prestigious Goldman Prize in 2014.

Such allegations are nothing new in Indonesia. Officials in the Aceh provincial government, whose new spatial plan is the subject of a citizen lawsuit because it would open Leuser to new logging, mining and oil palm development, have previously accused NGOs of leading a “black campaign” against it.

Hollywood actor Harrison Ford was also threatened with deportation in 2013 after he confronted the Indonesian forestry minister about the destruction of Tesso Nilo National Park for the Showtime documentary.