Land Grab Behind Palm Oil Industry

Saturday, 13 May 2017 , 15:00:00 WIB - Economy

Farmers are seen cutting weed on certified oil palm seedlings at Rimba Langgeh Village, Arongan Lambalek, Aceh Barat, Aceh, Thursday (27/4). (ANTARA)

JAKARTA, GRES.NEWS – Indonesian palm oil products have attracted the world’s attention as they consider that the production process is related to many issues, such as human rights violation, corruption, child labor, and the elimination of indigenous people rights. PT Rezeki Kencana, Tianjin Joulong Group, is one of the companies that’s suspected of violating human rights as they grabbed 2,600 hectares land that belonged to the people of Kampung Baru Village, and Kampong Jangkang II, Kubu District, Kubu Raya Regency, West Kalimantan. The company is one of suppliers of Wilmar Group that engages agribusiness and related businesses.

PT Rezeki Kencana came to Kampung Baru Village, Sungai Raya, Kubu Raya Regency, West Kalimantan in 2007. It is indicated that the company didn’t outreach the community. Therefore, the Free, Prior, Informed and Concent (FPIC) process didn’t go well, and most of the locals don’t know about the company’s environmental impact assessment (AMDAL), cadastral map, development plan, and the profit sharing system wasn’t clear.

"The company claimed the land from the people/Darat Jaya Peasants Union in Kampung Baru Village," said Andi Muttaqin, a researcher of Community Advocation and Study Agency (ELSAM), in a press release received by, Sunday (13/5).

He explained that the land was used by the locals for their farm, they planted rubber trees, banana trees, and many others. Then, the company entered, cleared the land and damaged the farm. About 20,000 trees on the land were destroyed. After that, PT Rezeki Kencana planted oil palm trees.

In letter No. BA 28/BA/SPP/VI/2015, the National Land Agency (BPN) in Kubu Raya Regency asserted that the land belongs to the Darat Jaya peasants’ union, and the Kubu District Administration issued a letter No.102/184/pem on May 3, 2017, to evaluate the leasehold (HGU) of PT Rezeki Kencana.

When the locals in Kampung Baru village were fighting for their rights, PT Rezeki Kencana criminalized them. PT Rezeki Kencana reported the locals who mapped and evaluated the border between Kampung Baru Village, Kubu District, and Teluk Bayur Village, Terentang District to the police. The company reported the locals, and the locals were accused of damaging the land. Despite this, the locals mapped the area under the agreement of two villages with the permits from both village heads, both of them are against the existence of PT Rezeki Kencana.

PALM OIL INDUSTRY CONDITION – The Indonesian palm oil industry has attracted the world’s attention, especially after the European Union (EU) parliament issued a resolution last April. The Parliament considers that palm oil industry is connected to many issues, such as human rights violation, corruption, child labor, and the elimination of indigenous people rights.

The European Parliament has made an agreement to reduce the usage of methyl ester in biofuel in 2020, and they also made an agreement to set minimum criteria that are made of oil palm. One of them is sustainable, and not produced from deforestation and activities that violate human rights.

The resolution will also eliminate certification for Indonesian palm oil products. 640 members of the European Parliament approved the resolution, only 18 members who were against the resolution.

Responding to the resolution, the Indonesian government got infuriated and decided to cooperate with the Malaysian government that also produces palm oil. They will initiate a diplomacy to counter the resolution. The government considers that Europe is afraid that their vegetable oil products are incapable of competing against palm oil products.

General Chairman of Indonesian Palm Oil Entrepreneurs Association (Gapki), Joko Supriyono, said that legal palm oil certification in Indonesia like ISPO (Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil) is not accepted in Europe.

According to Joko, the EU parliament wants the palm oil products to be certified in Europe, not in Indonesia.

Besides that, Joko said that the European Union Parliament resolution only applies to palm oil. Despite this, there are many types of vegetable oil in Europe, which also contributes to deforestation.

"It only applies to palm oil, it’s very discriminative because the other vegetable oil products don’t have to pass any certification process. The resolution also makes the HS (Harmonized System) between sustainable palm oil and unsustainable palm oil products different," Joko said.

He assumes that the issue of palm oil products is used by the EU parliament to strengthen their power of negotiation in the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) of Indonesia-EU free trade agreement.

"They don’t accept our certification. Despite this, the agency that audits our certification is from Europe, isn’t that enough? It’s not about the environment, but it’s for their trade interests," Joko stated. (dtc/mfb)