Between 2011 and 2014, the Forestry Minister issued decrees releasing state forest land to twelve oil palm plantation companies in and around Jair sub-district of Boven Digoel Regency.
Five of those companies are owned by or still have connections with a Malaysian company, the Menara Group*: PT. Usaha Nabati Terpadu (37.918 ha), PT. Megakarya Jaya Raya (39.920 ha), PT. Kartika Cipta Pratama (38.160 ha), PT. Graha Kencana Mulia (38.725 ha), PT. Energi Samudera Kencana (38.525 ha). Currently, only one of these companies, PT Megakarya Jaya Raya is operational, and is based in Anggai Village, Jair Sub-district, Boven Digoel Regency.
According to Stevanus Meanggi, a resident of Anggai village, PT MJR has been clearing forest since 2013, and has currently cleared an area of over 3000 hectares, which is less than 10% of the concession. The majority of the area has been planted with oil palm. The company is also trying to develop a plywood factory at a place called Sabageran.
The head of the Planning Division of Boven Digoel Forestry Service, Zeth Manti, reckons that PT MJR has been under-performing in the oil palm business, meaning the company is behind schedule with planting. “They once applied for a two-year extension of their permit for the nursery, although it would have been possible in three months. There are obstacles and objections to land acquisition coming from the community, and maybe that’s because the company failed to approach the community beforehand”, said Zeth Manti.
Several problems have been identified, including the following: there are still clan members who have not agreed to let a company manage their land, intimidation to acquire land, an unfairly low level of compensation for land, clearing sago groves, a low rate of compensation for timber – 10,000 Rupiah per tree, discrimination against Papuan workers, low wages, company promises that haven’t been followed-up, the company ignoring agreements it has made, the community has still not received a written agreement concerning the use of the land and so on.
Zeth Manti complained that actually a company should make regular reports to local government and related bodies concerning matters such as any obstacles encountered, how work is progressing and draft work plans.
Companies have a responsibility to make regular reports and send them to us, so we know about the company’s situation. But in fact this company has never reported to us or coordiated with us”, he said.
Zeth Manti had also heard the information that a plywood factory was being built in Anggai village, and that a traditional ritual to offer thanks for its development had been held, but the Boven Digoel Forestry Service had not been informed or invited, and so they had no further details.
“Apparently today there was a traditional ceremony for the factory development, but relevant bodies were not invited. If they don’t respect us, then we won’t respect them, by which I mean regulations, so that they are aware that there is a government here”, he said.
The head of the Boven Digoel Development Planning Board (Bappeda), Wempi Hutubessy, also didn’t know about the activity of the Menara Group, and had never received a report from them. Bappeda had also never received and examined an Environmental Impact Assessment from the company.
We at Bappeda have only examined three EIAs for oil palm companies, in late 2013. The companies were PT. Wahana Agri Karya, PT. Duta Visi Global and PT. Visi Hijau Nusantara, which in the end were rejected, Wempi Hutubessy explained.
So far the government has not reprimanded or punished this company for not carrying out its obligations. In response to these explanations from local government, Michael Felix Yonggap, a landowner in Anggai village, stated “If they really didn’t make any reports, I would ask the government and relevant agencies to end the permit to clear land and revoke the cultivation rights title (HGU)”.
*[awasMIFEE note: There is strong evidence that PT Megakarya Jaya Raya is now owned by Pacific Inter-link, a Malaysian palm oil trading company linked to the Yemeni Hayel Sayed Anam Group, but this has not been confirmed by Pacific Inter-link. Menara Group, the former owner which obtained the permits, is believed to have maintained a minority share]