Indonesia peat policy tussle - Pulp and palm and the Indonesia electoral cycle, 250,000 Riau jobs takes SPSI to the Supreme Court. Context.

14 Oct 2017: Pulp and palm and the Indonesia electoral cycle

Editor's note: Indonesia's peat regulation is being challenged by Riau pulp industry workers unions. I must say that I've always been a bit worried about implementation of peat restoration as it was never clear from the start how workers and local communities engaged with or related to affected pulp/palm/other concessions would be compensated,  relocated and given new jobs. The next Riau local elections are in June 2018 (gubernatorial, mayoral, regential)*. While Riau pulp has worries, President Jokowi was recently in Musi Banyuasin, South Sumatra, to promote oil palm replanting, titles for smallholders and an 8 tonnes CPO/ha yield target.  He will tour this in Sumatra and move onto Kalimantan in 2018. The next General Election for Indonesia is 2019. 
*In 2013, Greenpeace urged the candidates for Riau Governor to present a concrete vision and mission on ending deforestation.

*With special thanks to Pak SH for the news alerts too, and many industry friends in Jakarta for feedback.

Presiden Jokowi Mulai Peremajaan Kelapa Sawit di Sumsel / President Jokowi Starts Palm Oil Rejuvenation in South Sumatra,  13 October 2017 -- "In Musi Banyuasin will be rejuvenated 4,400 hectares of oil palm plantations that are old, the cost is borne by the government, the seeds are given, the seeds for corn crops are also given, what less?" said the President... Replanting of oil palm in South Sumatra was conducted for an area of 2,834 hectares for 1,308 households. "This we start in South Sumatra first, next month I will go to North Sumatra, next month to go to Jambi and then to Riau, this year we will concentrate on the island of Sumatra, next year I will push it to Borneo. We do want to focus work so easy to check, easy to control, "said Jokowi. The President is targeting the people's palm oil plantation to produce up to 8 tons / hectare / year. "This seedlings later when it is big can produce 8 tons, per hectare, CPO."; note: Smallholders in forest areas will be removed from this forest status, and given title.

Fearing worker layoffs, seven trade unions within PT RAPP seek the support of the Riau Malay Customary Institution (LAMR). They are worried about the new Indonesia peat regulation and the Minister of Environment and Forestry's (LHK) second warning letter dated October 6, 2017 to the company where they work.
  • Tribun Pekanbaru reports public unrest among workers and communities within the Industrial Timber Estate (HTI) company; with thousands of workers in HTIs and pulp paper industries in Riau Province of concern. Syahril Abubakar of LAMR said: "It is not just the fate of thousands of workers and their children and wives, so this will have a tremendous impact on the children who are now studying." 
  • The Alliance of Workers Union of Riau Complex (Asperikom) consists of seven unions in PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper RAPP) with a membership of about 18,000 workers. They are worried about the lay offs after the issuance of a second warning letter. Tribun Pekanbaru, writes that "Asperikom stated that the workers felt traumatized by the 2008 layoffs as a result of the state policy and did not want to get double casualties due to the impact of Regulation of Minister of Environment and Forestry No. 17 year 2017."

LAMR Riau: Permen LHK 17/2017 Banyak Mudharat, Jumat, 13 Oktober 2017 19:34

13 Oct 2017, 10am: Indonesia peat policy tussle - 250,000 Riau jobs takes SPSI to the Supreme Court. Context.

IPOM (an anonymous expose website) on 12 Oct 2017 wrote that two pulp units of a large palm-pulp conglomerate was "declared illegal by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Indonesia...." We can also review its source story in published on 9 October 2017. This claims: "The invalidation of both these work plans is tantamount to the APRIL company’s operations being declared illegal, until and unless a new 10-year work plan that complies with the new peat regulations is approved." Also, writes that "the Ministry’s Law Enforcement Director General Rasio “Roy” Ridho Sani conducted a ground-based inspection of one of the estates.. (uncovering) business-as-usual practices.. ignoring the new peat regulations.. (and) also witnessed in person the ongoing replanting of acacia by the APRIL company in peat domes (peat protection zones) at a time when it was still trying to buy time before submitting its peat recovery plan to the ministry... As of early October this year (Oct 3), the APRIL company has no further legal basis to carry out field operations" (source:

But there is more to this. An expert in Jakarta tells us: "The (peat) regulation for this action was challenged at the Supreme Court and won. So for now, I see this as a legal battle. The regulation was revoked 2-3 days before this license was revoked" (interview 13 Oct 2017).

Indeed, Capaklah reports on 12 October 2017 of SPSI (All Indonesian Workers Union) Riau winning in the Supreme Court to save 250,000 jobs ("MA Kabulkan Gugatan SPSI Riau Terhadap Pemen LHK Nomor 17",

  • The Supreme Court (MA) finally granted a petition for the judicial review of the Ministerial Decree of the Minister of Environment (LHK) No. 17 on Change of Candidate of LHK Number 12 Year 2015 on Industrial Timber Estate Development (HTI). 
  • The case was filed July 25, 2017 and it was decided on October 2, 2017. 
  • SPSI (All Indonesian Workers Union) Riau challenged the Ministry's policy which is considered contrary to the Law... Chairman of DPD SPSI Riau, Nursal Tanjung... confirmed ... "Yeah right, we won a lawsuit in the MA," he said. According to Nursal, in his lawsuit, the Regulation of LHK number 17 strongly contradicts the higher law, where there is no prohibition in the management of peatlands for the benefit of Indonesian society. 
  • In addition to the business community, the most affected are 250 thousand workers and laborers who work in the field of HTI. 
  • In the regulation .. peatlands must be returned as forest areas.

You know how much we like to examine wider contexts too. Other Jakarta sources tell us about heightened business tussles in Indonesia over the last two years, triggered by the push for the policy for infrastructure development. This has in turn driven bigger tax collections (for example, an Indonesia SME may be paying 1/3 more in taxes) and the tussles are on the rise. One says: "It's a jungle down here ... like Texas or Tombstone during the cowboy era." Various experts see shadow fights in relation to regulatory licensing issues, recalling Indonesia's recent rice controversy.

 Stay tuned for more.