Efforts to Save Mendol Island from Palm Oil, Civil Society Organizations Propose Friends of Justice

Mendol Island from Palm Oil

The decision by the Regent of Pelalawan to revoke the cultivation plantation business license (IUPB) and an order to stop all activities to clear areas for plantations on Mendol Island, was met with resistance from PT Trisetia Usaha Mandiri (TUM) to the Pekanbaru State Administrative Court (PTUN). The panel of judges accepted all of TUM’s lawsuit materials. Government of Palawan appeal. Various civil society organizations also conveyed friends of justice ( amicus curiae ) to the State Administrative High Court (PTUN) in Medan.

In the lawsuit, TUM believes that the Pelalawan Regent’s decision contradicts the principle of fulfilling reasonable expectations and the principle of decision-making motivation. That conclusion was agreed upon by the Panel of Judges Misbah Hilmy, Endri, and Rahmadian Novira, at the verdict hearing last February 22. The Pelalawan Regent was ordered to revoke the decision.

TUM first obtained a forest area release permit on Mendol Island in 1997. Only in 2013, the Regent of Pelalawan, Muhammad Harris, issued an IUPB. Four years later, the Minister of ATR/Head of BPN Syofian Djalil also granted a land use permit (HGU).

Later, Haris revoked the IUPB in 2020, arguing that the company had not used the area for too long. TUM instead deployed heavy equipment to clear land and build canals, causing upheaval in the community.

As a result, Zukri, Harris’ replacement regent, ordered TUM to stop its activities, in 2022. The previous government had revoked the permit that had been granted. The ATR Minister/Head of BPN also revoked the company’s HGU in early 2023. The reason was more or less the same as TUM abandoning the concession.

The Pekanbaru Administrative Court does not view these facts as including the turmoil among the people of Mendol Island. Responding to this decision, the Regent of Pelalawan took legal steps against the Medan TUN High Court. The appeal request was sent last May 17.

The Pelalawan Regent’s action sparked the support of several civil society organizations, including Walhi, the Consortium for Agrarian Reform (KPA), the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL), and the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI). They put forward friends of the judiciary (amicus curiae ).

Satrio Manggala, Manager of Law and Policy Studies at the National Walhi, said that the Pelalawan Regent who revoked the IUPB and ordered TUM to stop activities, was part of local government law enforcement.

The Pekanbaru PTUN judge who overturned this decision was deemed to have forgotten the principle of justice, concerning the interests of present and future generations as well as the interests of humans and their ecosystem.

Linda Dewi Rahayu, Staff of the KPA Policy Advocacy and Network Development Department, said that the PTUN’s role in Indonesia should be more than just examining administrative matters. PTUN, he said, must be part of efforts to protect community land rights and protect the environment.

The basis of the environment, he said, should be the attention of judges in deciding matters.

In line with Difa Shafira, Head of ICEL’s Forestry and Land Division. In examining environmental cases, he said, judges had been given guidelines by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court through SK 36/2013.

Every judge, he said, needs to look at the principles of environmental protection and management. He became the basis for testing the lawsuit filed by TUM against the Pelalawan Regent’s decision.

“The Pelalawan Regent has conducted surveillance. This is a form of good governance. Revocation of IUP is a corrective action. The form of alignment of state officials for environmental protection and principles. According to commitments and climate policies in Indonesia,” said Difa.

Abdul Malik Akdom, YLBHI Research Staff, confirmed Difa’s opinion. Legal considerations that prioritize human values ​​have been stated in the Law on Judicial Power No. 48/2009. Article 5 paragraph 1 states that judges and judges of the constitution are obliged to explore, follow and understand legal values ​​and a sense of justice that lives in society.

Facts: Mendol, islet, peat island

Mendol Island, Kuala Kampar District, Pelalawan Regency, Riau, is considered unfit to become an oil palm plantation area. Mendol or Penyalai, located on the East Coast of Sumatra, is a small island with an area of ​​30,717 hectares or 307.17 square kilometers. It is also a peat island with more than half of the protected area of ​​the peat ecosystem.

This fact is contained in the attachment to the decision of the Minister of Environment and Forestry regarding the determination of the national peat hydrological unit map. The area of ​​TUM HGU is 6,055.77 hectares, the majority of which are indicative of the peat ecosystem protection function. Neither dome nor peat dome. Only 419.07 hectares are for cultivation purposes.

Referring to the Law on the Management of Coastal Zone and Small Islands, islands with an area of ​​less than 2,000 square kilometers are only prioritized for conservation and other matters up to national defense and security.

“Mendol Island is a small island. Their activities should be limited, especially for extractive industries such as oil palm plantations,” said Satrio.

On this basis, the people of Mendol Island object to the island management plan for investment in oil palm plantations where they live. Communities have the same opportunity in development around their living space. This right is contained in Article 18 number 27 of Law No. 6/2023 and Article 60 paragraph 1 letter a of Law 27/2007.

Reject a long time ago

The people of Mendol Island rejected the oil palm plantation development plan when they found out that TUM had obtained an HGU permit in 2018. The protest grew bigger after the company deployed heavy equipment last year. This struggle also sacrificed the life of a citizen, while on his way to Jakarta, he urged the ATR/BPN Ministry to revoke the HGU.

According to KPA, apart from being contrary to the Law on the Management of Coastal Areas and Small Islands, the granting of permits to TUM on Mendol Island is also contrary to Government Regulation Number 71/2014 or commonly called PP Gambut.

Article 21, prohibits the clearing of peatlands other than for research, science, education, and environmental services in protected areas. The use of areas with cultivation functions must also be by the plan for the protection and management of the peat ecosystem itself.

PP Gambut also explained that building canals and clearing forests in protected peat areas are classified as activities that destroy peat areas. Because of this, TUM has violated its obligation as a plantation business actor to maintain the preservation of environmental functions. This is stated in Article 67 Paragraph 1 of the Plantations Law.

“Peat is an essential ecosystem and has certain vulnerabilities. TUM’s activities as a palm oil plantation extractive industry cannot be justified based on these laws and regulations,” said Satrio.

Based on Walhi Riau’s field checks, the TUM excavator had cleared the forest and dug a canal for nearly one kilometer with a depth of more than two meters. The large ditch extends beyond the HGU. It leads to the beach, or only five meters from the sea.

The clearing of the TUM peat area is suspected of threatening the clean water source infrastructure for Mendol Island residents, which was built by the government in 1997. It will also threaten monitor lizards, Mawas, or large monkeys, deer, and deer. These animals are typical inhabitants of Mendol Island.

According to YLBHI, TUM’s oil palm plantation business has the potential to violate the promotion of human rights for Mendol Island residents. Among other things, the right to a clean and healthy environment, participation in development, and the water right.

Mendol Island’s Forest and Peat Are Threatened by Oil Palm Companies, Residents are Uneasy

The palm oil company, PT Trisetia Usaha Mandiri (TUM), will operate on Mendol Island, Palalawan District, Riau. The permit for this palm oil company allegedly violated several regulations, such as being on peat with a protected function. This small island is also a source of life for residents by gardening and farming. This island is one of the food stores in Palalawan.

This case arose when, M Syahrir, Head of the Regional Office of the Riau National Land Agency (BPN), wrote to the Director of TUM. The letter dated June 15 2022 gave a deadline of 20 days for the company to immediately use the land. Since receiving the 2017 HGU, TUM has abandoned its concession.

Syahrir, just retired early last October. One week later, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named him a suspect, along with Frank Wijaya and Sudarso, Commissioners and General Manager of PT Adimulia Agrolestari (Afimulia) respectively.

In another case, Sudarso was sentenced to two years for being found guilty of bribing the inactive Kuantan Singing Regent Andi Putra, who was sentenced to 5.7 years in prison. They were involved in the bribery case for the extension of Adimulia’s cultivation rights (HGU) who was reluctant to fulfill the plasma plantation obligations.

For the TUM case, the warning letter issued by Syahrir did not consider the revocation of the company’s cultivation plantation business license (IUPB) by M Harris, Regent of Pelalawan, on April 13, 2020.

Harris issued the permit for an area of ​​6,550 hectares in 2013 and withdrew it after seven years when the company failed to fulfill its obligations under Article 40 paragraphs 1 and 3, Minister of Agriculture Regulation 98/2013.

Four months later, on August 31, 2020, the Head of the Pelalawan Investment and One-Stop Services (DPMPTSP) followed up on the revocation of the license. Suriani, the Head of the Budi Service, sent a letter to the Ministry of ATR/BPN to cancel or revoke TUM’s land rights, although until now there has been no decision.

Claiming that they had never received a warning letter from the Pelalawan Regency Government, TUM continued to deploy several heavy equipment. Make roads, and clear land to dig canals.

According to Kazzaini KS, a Mendol Island community figure, the existence of the TUM office is unclear. The Pelalawan government was also unable to trace the address of the company to send the IUP revocation letter.

This company just appeared and gave a response after news of the community’s rejection spread on the internet and print media.

Quoting Hariantimes.com, Aznur Affandi, who claimed to be in charge of the company, emphasized that he had all the permits: the 1995 land reservation approval, principle permit, forest area release, IUP, and HGU which only expired in 2052.

Aznur admitted that he was negligent to the point where the land was abandoned. The reason is technical issues such as the need to re-map the area, research, and studies to start activities, including large capital. This obstacle, he said, became even more difficult when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in recent years.

After receiving a warning from the Riau BPN Regional Office, the company gradually worked on the area.

Mongabay contacted Aznur Affandi, on 29 October 2022, evening. He refused to provide information. “Don’t worry about it.”

Based on monitoring by Walhi Riau, the TUM excavator dug a canal for nearly one kilometer with a depth of more than two meters. The large ditch extends beyond the HGU. It leads to the beach, or only five meters from the sea.

“Indeed, we have found no specific regulations regarding the prohibition of building canals on the shoreline. But for the peat ecosystem, it is very dangerous. Because it will push the peat to dry out. The water drops and catches fire easily,” said Boy Jerry Even Sembiring. Regional Executive Director of Walhi Riau.

Opening a canal in an HGU without an IUPB because it has been revoked, he said, is classified as a violation of the law.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *