PT Tandan Sawita Papua: A portrait of how an Oil Palm Company Insults Communities

PT Tandan Sawita Papua is an oil palm company operating in East Arso District, Keerom Regency, not far south of the Papuan capital Jayapura. The company has been operating since 2008 with an area of around 18,000 hectares under cultivation. PT Tandan Sawita Papua uses a system comprised of a core plantation and tied smallholdings. The area referred to as the core plantation is owned and managed by the company. Then there are parts of the plantation which are handed over to smallholder farmers, which are known as ‘plasma’.

As PT Tandan Sawita Papua moved into Arso Timur, the community was divided into pro- and contra-. However, that just reinforced the voice of those with money. The reason they used was economic security. The government only listened to the company’s version, which claimed that their company would be a partner of the government and would implement development programs that would enhance the community’s economic security. This was confirmed by Ondo Ujung Karang, when he met with former regency head Selsius Watae before PT Tandan Sawita Papua started its operations in East Arso.

The community in Arso understand the forest to be like their mother, providing all life’s necessities. From generation to generation, the people in the area had always looked after, occupied and made use of the forest. In short, people lived together with nature and live from nature. They never went hungry because nature provided food for the whole community. The clear-flowing waters could quench their thirst. The social situation, relations between community members, could be portrayed as peaceful and calm. Any problems were solved collectively, not isolated from the rituals which underlie social relationships and the relationship with nature. For the indigenous community, the concept of security means being able to live in peace with their neighbours and with nature. However, it can’t be denied that this community did have several problems, most importantly concerning transport infrastructure and education which the state was not addressing at the time.

This was the opportunity which PT Tandan Sawita Papua would use to make its promises sound enticing. The plantation company tried to persuade people that it would develop and increase the level of security by supporting infrastructure which the people need, such as transportation, education, health clinics and clean water. Compensation for land and plants growing on it would become the company’s responsibility, using a system they called ‘tali asih’. Payment would take place in three stages. ‘Tali asih’ has become the term that is most commonly used by companies when they talk about transferring land rights in East Arso to their control.

The company has not responded to the community’s protests about the ‘tali asih‘ compensation being too low and the company’s broken promises.

Corporate Social Responsibility towards the communities remains no more than a slogan. In fact, road infrastructure has been left in its damaged state, and the company has only built roads that are used by the company’s vehicles. Education and health facilities have been left as they were. What’s more, chemical treatments for the oil palm trees has had environmental impacts and has polluted clean water sources. The community can now see the reality that the effect of the oil palm plantation has not brought them progress, rather dragged them backwards. However, in common with other communities, the people there tend to keep quiet about the injustices they face. In the name of development the government has sacrificed indigenous people to whoever wants to develop oil palm plantations, in this case in East Arso.

Source: Fransiskan Papua

[awasMIFEE note: PT Tandan Sawita Papua is known as part of the Rajawali Group, which also operates two sugar cane plantations in Merauke. In fact it is owned by the Green Eagle Group, which is a partnership between Rajawali and French multinational Louis Dreyfus Commodities. It claims to be sustainable as a member of the UN Global Compact, but with a history of environmental destruction, exploiting its workers and firing them when they complain and failing to act responsibly towards the local indigenous community, it is clear that commitment is fairly meaningless]

This entry was posted in Around West Papua and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Trackback