ANJ’s response to criticism of its recent forest clearance.

On 12th October 2017, AwasMIFEE sent a list of questions to the Austindo Nusantara Jaya group, mostly focussed on  sustainability information in its annual report,  which seemed at odds with what was happening in its concessions in Papua Barat province. Of particular concern was the recent land clearance in an area which is the subject of a long running dispute with the Iwaro people in Puragi village. Even though local politicians have committed to seek a resolution of this dispute, the company appears to have been moving fast to clear the area before this process is settled.

The company’s responses came too late to be incorporated in the article I wrote about this, but ANJ’s head of corporate communications, Nunik Maulana Maharani did eventually respond on 8th November. The replies are posted below  in full. I have kept my comments kept to a minimum, however it should be noted that the issue of the recent forest clearance is not directly addressed, whilst the attempts by local politicians to find a solution to the dispute are acknowledged. The key question therefore remains, why is land clearance taking place while this mediation is still supposedly ongoing?

Q: In your 2016 annual report, you stated that a new management plan was being produced and would be circulated to stakeholders when completed, although as far as I am aware, neither local groups nor international organisations that have criticised ANJ in the past have received a copy. Has this plan been finished? If there is a revised management plan and new HCV/HCS assessments, would it not be appropriate describe the new clearance as a new planting and resubmit a public notification on the RSPO website under the New Planting Programme to meet RSPO P&C 1.2? Especially since ANJ has stated that the original HCV assessment failed to identify an area of primary forest.

A: ANJ Group (ANJ) has three palm oil concessions in West Papua, each under the name of PT Austindo Nusantara Jaya Tbk (ANJT), PT Putera Manunggal Perkasa (PMP), and PT Putera Permata Mandiri (PPM), in a form of contiguous block totaling 91,209 ha.

A draft conservation plan is complete pending an internal review before elements of it are made public. The ANJT portion is going through a second phase of internal review. We will be participating in a consultative workshop in Jakarta which will discuss the important elements of the plan with key stakeholders.  This workshop will lead to the formation of a wider regional platform which will discuss the role of sustainable oil palm development in the Conservation Province of West Papua.

It is necessary to resubmit a public notification on the RSPO website as we are currently in discussion with the RSPO secretariat regarding new planting in PPM and PMP. The ANJT HCV Assessment Report is under review. In support of RSPO and its responsibility for sustainable palm oil, ANJ’s plan for the next five years is to develop up to 23,000 ha of oil palm plantation.  ANJ is committed to protecting its identified conservation area using the precautionary principle. The conservation area would include late succession and secondary dryland and wetland forests. The conservation area is a continuous blocks fitted into a landscape setting. The conservation of the wider landscape beyond the ANJ site will depend on discussion and agreement of other stakeholders.

Q: This land is of particular concern, because there is an unresolved land dispute on the land in question, between PT PPM and the Gue clan and other clans which own customary land in Puragi village. In 2015, Yakomina Gue brought a court case against the company, in which the judge ruled there was no case to answer, but on a technical point, saying that the Gue clan should have included other parties in their complaint. Because of this the substance of the dispute was not adequately resolved through that court case. Local sources have told me that a meeting took place on 16th June 2017 in Sorong, which company representatives attended, with the outcome that the Sorong Selatan District Legislative Council agreed to act as intermediaries, however the dispute is still not settled. ANJ has also acknowledged the dispute in its recent Sustainability Report. How is continued clearing on disputed land consistent with ANJ’s stated commitment to FPIC? Should the dispute not be resolved first?

A: In July 2016, the District Court of Sorong declared this dispute as inadmissible. The traditional norm for land inheritance customary rights is patriarchal, thus making Yakomina Gue not the rightful owner.  Yakomina Gue has to resolve this conflict internally with members of her clan. ANJ is in no position to interfere in clan inheritance matters. The rightful owners of the land have given their consent to and been compensated by ANJ prior to land clearing.

[awasmifee comment: as well as being a shockingly sexist interpretation of the law, the idea that women do not have land rights in a patrilineal indigenous society is also legally doubtful. Indigenous land rights, known as ulayat rights, are not individual rights, they are collectively held, and therefore no individual has the right to surrender those rights on behalf of a clan or community. Both the Papuan Special Autonomy law and the Plantation Law make it clear that any decisions to surrender land should be made by an assembly which reaches consensus (musyawarah). Furthermore, women are often excluded from decisions over whether or not to accept proposed plantation developments, yet they disproportionately affected by negative impacts of plantations.  Responsible companies should address this by making sure that women are involved in any decision-making process. ]

Q: In ANJ’s Annual Report, it claims that Greenpeace was inaccurate to state that primary forest had been cleared. However, Indonesian land cover survey data available through the ministry website classifies land in PT PMP’s concession as primary forest in 2014, but as barren ground in 2015. a comparison, compiled from the KLHK’s interactive map service is attached. The classifications you mention in the report (areal penggunaan lain and hutan lindung) are zoning classifications in Indonesia’s forest estate and do not refer to the state of forest cover. On what basis does ANJ wish to claim that this land was not primary forest?

A: RSPO registered consultants conducted the HCV assessment of PMP in 2014 and their report identified all forested areas as secondary and new planting was approved by RSPO. Development was planned and initiated based on the HCV Assessment Report.  However, ANJ took a separate initiative to review the findings and has currently committed to conserving a significant portion of the contiguous landscape which includes late succession dryland and wetland forests.

Q: The basis for claiming that PT PPM was planning to plant on peat was ANJ’s own map included in the HCV summary published as part of the NPP, which shows plans for cultivation on hemist and saprist soils, which are varieties of histosols, which are usually classified as peat, although admittedly peat is a colloquial term with no rigid scientific definition. Will these areas, which are extensively found in the eastern part of PT PPM’s concession, now be excluded from development?

A: ANJ has voluntarily gone through a total revision of its planting plan as the initial HCV assessment was inacurate.  As a result, ANJ is conserving the entire eastern section of the three concessions: ANJT, PMP and PPM, maintaining a continuous landscape block. Thus, PPM will have more than 75% of its concession conserved as compared to 15.77% of conservation proposed by the original HCV assessors.

Q: In your sustainability policy, you state there will be ‘no development on peat and wetlands’. However your sago concession is on peat land, and has involved the construction of canals to transport the sago logs. How does this fit with your policy?

A: Our sago operation is an exercise of sustainably extracting sago logs. The canal impact is minimal and is used only for transporting sago logs. The canals are closed and do not drain the swamp. Various reduced impact logging methods are currently being tested. ANJ aims to adopt the selective extraction method with minimal impact. This is an example of sustainable forest management. Our sago operation is not a clear felling exercise and depends on natural regeneration for sago regrowth. An integrated management plan is being formulated.

Q: Free Prior Informed Consent: In your annual report you state that you see FPIC as a ‘continuous process’. While community engagement should of course be ongoing, this statement is evidently contrary to FPIC as it is generally understood, which is a process which should be completed prior to any development or financial transactions taking place. An example of how this could be applied to the palm oil industry has been published by the RSPO ( ). Does ANJ currently consider that the process PT PPM and PMP engaged in prior to the signing of land release settlements between July and September 2013 met these criteria?

A: ANJ takes a broader view of the FPIC process. For most stakeholders the focus is on getting consent to develop through a consultative and informed process. The situation in Papua is far more complex and we intend to continuously engage with the community, seeking consent.  The community will be included in all aspect of development.

The FPIC process is important but the interpretation of its use should evolve into continuous engagement. We would think that people knowledgeable in the social complexity of Papua would actually have a better understanding of the circumstances. Desktop interpretation of the FPIC process requirements by RSPO should be viewed as a continuous process.

Q: Why were the payments for land so low at that time, between 50,000 and 130,000 Rupiah per hectare?

A: ANJ has an agreement with the community on the amount of land compensation. The agreement is not only via monetary funds, but also support to the development of the local community, in addition to the fee kubikasi kayu [timber compensation]. Although the initial compensation seems low, it has to be kept in mind that a significant area for conservation purposes is included in the compensation.  In addition, ANJ is committed to developing a whole range of livelihood programs for the communities involved, going beyond the scope of merely compensating the land.

Q. If ANJ agrees that the process for indigenous land acquisition did not meet the standard for FPIC in 2013, what steps are being taken now to address the land disputes that have arisen since that time, including the dispute involving the Iwaro people from Puragi village?

A: Knowing the social complexities involved in this area, we continue with the FPIC process by making efforts to understand the detailed issues of the community living in each parcel of the land.  The issues are dynamics.  This is why ANJ has specifically stated that FPIC is a continuous process. The Bupati of South Sorong with his team is directly involved in resolving the Iwaro land disputes.  This is a post-2013 land release agreement.  As you may appreciate, handling overlapping claims among tribes/clans would require tact and patience.

Q: A graphic on p133 of the Annual Report with the title ‘Public Consultation’ shows a picture of a policeman and soldier, amongst other stakeholders. Is the company aware that, especially in areas with a history of conflict such as Papua, the presence of police and military in negotiations is highly unlikely to be compatible with FPIC, as their presence alone is perceived as intimidating? Are Brimob guards still working with the company, and if so, how can the company justify this in the Papuan context?

A: ANJ’s current security policy does not involve the use of para-militaries in our operations. The illustration presented in our Annual Report is misinterpreted.  Police and military representatives are members of local consultative board (or known as Musyawarah Pimpinan Daerah or Muspida), therefore they were invited to the the public consultation as local stakeholders, along with Bupati and other members of Muspida.

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