Two Indonesian community leaders have given alarming testimonies to Members of the European Parliament and European Commission officials about the devastating social impacts and environmental destruction caused as a result of palm oil plantations in Papua and Kalimantan.
During a visit to Brussels between 26 and 28 April, Franky Samperante and Agus ‘Tomo’ Sutomo urged the EU to stop investments and finance for destructive palm oil plantation activities, and to insist that the Indonesian Government respect the rights of indigenous peoples and communities.
They asked the EU for stringent policies concerning violations of human rights in connection with the palm oil industry, to implement those policies consistently and to apply sanctions accordingly.
They stated that these large plantations violated the principles of free, prior and informed consent, endangered food sovereignty and destroyed forests sacred to local people. Land clearing has continued under police guard, despite strong community opposition.
Samperante and Sutomo questioned whether another moratorium on new concessions for palm oil and mining, as recently announced by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, would be effective or respected, given the government’s failure to implement existing regulations and a previous moratorium in 2011.
They added that the Indonesian government’s recent call for investments in sugar, corn and cattle instead of palm oil would benefit only the corporate world, rather than smallholders or communities.
Samperante and Sutomo were part of a group of indigenous and community leaders who travelled to Europe to present evidence to EU, German and British policymakers about the negative impacts of palm oil in their countries. Organised by the Forest Peoples Programme, their visit came just as consultations on the EU’s upcoming regulation on bioenergy are about to close, with questions still remaining about using food crops for biofuel.
Indonesian community leaders have brought an official complaint before the the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), accusing the palm oil company PT Nabire Baru of violating the principles and criteria for sustainable palm oil production and of violating legal regulations and the customary law of the Yerisiam Gua people, in Indonesian Papua. No response has yet been received from RSPO.
In another development, the RSPO confirmed that it had been served with a lawsuit by the Malaysian firm IOI, one of the world’s largest palm oil producers, after it suspended its sustainability certification last month because of allegations it had deforested Indonesian rainforests.
Image: Indonesian palm oil fruits (CIFOR via Flickr)