Wednesday, November 28th, 2012 - Affinity Marketing
Today the Court of Meulaboh, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, held its first hearing of a civil case brought by Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Attorney General’s Office vs the palm oil company, PT Kallista Alam, for the illegal destruction of Tripa, an area of Peat Forests known to have the highest densities of Sumatran orangutans in the world.

The Indonesian Ministry of the Environment was represented by prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic of Indonesia. PT Kallista Alam, on the other hand, did not appear, causing the trial to be postponed since the judges were unable to address both parties.

The Orangutan Project (www.orangutan.org.au) provides direct funding to help support the work involved with the conservation of the Tripa swamps.

Leif Cocks, President of The Orangutan Project that financially supports the local community’s fights to save the ecosystem says, “The palm oil companies are on a mission to destroy as much of the remaining forest that they can and as fast as they possibly can, ignoring the effect on the local communities that rely on the ecosystem for their health and livelihood. The orangutan population will be totally slaughtered if the current destruction is not stopped. Orangutans are dying en masse as we speak.”

One of the prosecution team, Lawyer Ryan Palasi, expressed disappointment over the company’s absence, "it suggests the defendant is not taking the proceedings seriously and not committed to settling the case," he said after the hearing.

Conservation Director for the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme said “We very much welcome this landmark action by the Ministry of Environment and will be monitoring the case closely, There continues to be a huge amount of international interest in the events in Tripa, building the momentum for multiple investigations and this case to proceed.

Earlier this year, the Administrational Court of Medan found that at least one concession owned by PT Kallista Alam in Tripa was illegal, resulting in Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah immediately showing strong leadership towards conservation by revoking the highly controversial permit. Tripa is indeed a high profile case with considerable international interest in how the Indonesian Government’s current prosecutions progress” he added.

Chairman of Friends of the Earth Indonesia’s Aceh office (WALHI Aceh), TM Zulfikar, concurred, “Walhi Aceh applauds the determination shown by the Ministry of Environment in bringing this case to the law court in Meulaboh. We hope this case will help strengthen land use planning and illustrate consistency in natural resource management within the province. We would advise business operating in Aceh to disengage with environmentally destructive activities, much of the destruction of the Tripa ecosystem has be done illegally, and now its time to redress the balance and bring those responsible to account.”

The Tripa Peat Swamp Forest comprises 61,000 hectares, within the larger 2.6 million hectare protected Leuser Ecosystem; one of South East Asia’s most important biodiversity hotspots and the only place on earth where the Sumatran Tiger, Rhino, Elephant and Orangutan can all be found living side by side.

Before the current wave of destruction by oil palm companies began in Tripa, these swamps provided abundant fresh clean water for local communities, and even today is a carbon store of global importance in the battle against climate change.

“Satellite imagery and community reports identify at least three companies operating in Tripa that have clearly breached the moratorium and other government legislation. These include concessions claimed by PT Kallista Alam, PT Surya Panen Subur 2 and PT Dua Perkasa Lestari,” said Deddy Ratih, Spatial Planning Advocacy Manager for WAHLI Indonesia.

These sentiments were echoed by a local community member who wished to remain anonymous, due to fears of retribution from the companies concerned. “We are happy to see the Government’s efforts to help us save and restore Tripa, but are also concerned as the destruction of Tripa is still continuing on the ground, even today. These companies keep setting new fires to clear the forest, new canals are still being dug to drain the swamps, and the area is still dying as a result. Even though this case has now been brought to court something urgently needs to be done to stop activities on the ground immediately, or we will still lose Tripa forever,” he continued.

“Perhaps the biggest crime”, concluded an impassioned Dr Singleton, “is that despite all the continued investigations, the court proceedings, and some successes so far, we may well end up with justice in the courts, but still lose the unique Tripa peat swamp forest ecosystem and its globally important Sumatran Orangutan population. Time is running out, and stopping illegal activities in the field and closing the drainage canals in Tripa has to be the number one priority. For the companies representatives to not even appear before the court when summoned today shows an all time low to the respect to courts, law and Government of Indonesia by the palm oil companies who operate in Tripa, they really must believe the rules do not apply”.

The next hearing in this high profile environmental case is scheduled to be held in the district court of Meulaboh, Aceh Province, on 12th December.

For more information, or to arrange an interview with The Orangutan Project Founder, Leif Cocks please contact:
Kate Richards 0404 892 782 | [email protected]

For further comment please contact: Dr. Ian Singleton
Director of Conservation, Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program
Email: [email protected]

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Brianna Power

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W: www.affinitymarketing.com.au

Keywords

Palm Oil, Deforestation, Orangutans

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