Archive | July 2012

GLOBE JOURNAL: Former Aceh Governor’s Story about the Permit in Tripa

 Unofficial translation by SOCP

 

Firman Hidayat | The Globe Journal

Wednesday, July 18, 2012 17:30 WIB

Banda Aceh – After WALHI Aceh massively exposed the controversial ‘in principle’ permit, Irwandi Yusuf finally admitted that he regretted issuing it and wants to revoke it. There was pressure on me to issue the ‘in principle’ permit, there was support for it from several people and agencies.

“I regret signing the permit for PT. Kalista Alam,” said the former Governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf.

Irwandi Yusuf’s remorse suggests he was forced to issue the in principle permit. “The permit I issued was no different from one issued by the Regent of Nagan Raya, and there was no influence at all,” said Irwandi Yusuf.

The problem of the permit for PT. Kalista Alam is very unfortunate. Irwandi himself also admitted that he had previously rejected the company’s request many times. “I ‘kicked it aside’ almost for two years, until evaluations eventually appeared from the provincial Forestry Office regarding the Leuser Ecosystem issue and a letter from the Police stating that the company had no legal problems,” said Irwandi convincingly.

“It could actually have been a problem if I had just ignored these letters. I could have been sued in the Administrative Court, since all requirements for the permit appeared to be fulfilled,” he continued.

Still, Irwandi did not simply rely on the supporting recommendations of these others, so he consulted with Aceh Green, and it appeared the Tripa Peat Swamp was not included in the moratorium map issued by President SBY. 

Then there was an assessment or analysis by the Forestry Office regarding the  Leuser Ecosystem, identifying that the utilisation of the area of the Leuser Ecosystem did not preclude this, if there was already an existing permit. “Tripa Peat Swamp is within the Leuser Ecosystem, but there is an exception that already existing permits (i.e. when the Ecosystem was established) must be respected, and what’s more, the official map of the Leuser Ecosystem was only newly made,” said Irwandi Yusuf.

“I only issued an “in principle” permit, with the Regent of Nagan Raya, whilst the concession permit itself comes from the Central Government, which the company itself takes care of,” said Irwandi during his press conference at Rumoh Aceh on Wednesday (18/07) lunchtime.

“I regret that I signed it, but since the Police said there was no problem, and as the Head of the District Parliament in Nagan Raya , Samsuardi (also known as Juragan), and a Chinese person came to see me, and they (Juragan and the Chinese person) said that they wanted to accommodate 30% plasma with the plantation, since, according to them, many community members from Nagan Raya are still unemployed, I then signed the permit,” stressed Irwandi Yusuf.

Actually, the Tripa problem lies with the company, PT Kallista Alam. According to the former Governor of Aceh, they still do not have a full concession permit, but the company has already started work. “If they don’t yet have the concession permit and they are already working that is clearly wrong,” he repeated.

“I would really like to revoke that permit letter,” said Irwandi Yusuf, closing the interview.

Revoke All Permits

The Coalition Team to Save the Tripa Swamps (TKPRT) urged the current Governor of Aceh, Zaini Abdullah, to send a recommendation to related Ministries regarding the withdrawal of all concession permits in the Tripa Peat Swamp, Nagan Raya District.

TKPRT’s spokesperson, Irsadi is waiting to see if Aceh’s Governor is brave enough to apply an immediate moratorium on all activities by concessions in the Tripa Peat Swamp and then revoke all permits within Tripa.

Irsadi has also expressed sincere appreciation to the UKP4 (REDD+ Task Force) in Jakarta, who have already written to the Governor of Aceh to revoke the permits of two of the problem companies, namely PT. Kallista Alam and PT. Surya Panen Subur-2.

“It would be far better to cancel all the concession permits in the Tripa Peat Swamps,” emphasized Irsadi. [003]

Official translation of bahasa article

Official translation of bahasa article

Charred Footprints
Tuesday, 17 July, 2012 | 07:22 WIB

TEMPO InteractiveJakarta:
The Tripa peat swamp, one with the largest capacity to store carbon in Aceh, is near complete ruin. Investigations carried out by a joint team continue to scour for criminal violations that destroyed the once rich peatland forest.

IN the middle of a vast, burned down forest littered with charred, blackened tree trunks, Basuki Wasis instructs one of his staffers to stick a pipe into the ground. One enters right through and stops at a meter deep. A second and then a third pipe sinks easily into the swamp land. The fourth sinks, and then stops at just forty centimeters deep.

After taking ground samples, Basuki records his findings in a pocket notebook – this was land with peat layers of 3.6 meters deep. “This is evidence of a violation committed via planting on peatland,” Basuki told Tempo, who accompanied the researcher from the Bogor Agricultural Institute during the drilling of pipes into the burned swamp land two weeks ago.

On this burned land controlled by palm oil plantation company Kallista Alam, they also gathered samples of charred trees and mounds of ash. “This is further proof to take Kallista Alam to court,” said Bayu Hardjanto, an investigator from the Ministry of Environment.

This land used to be the lush Tripa peatland forest, located within the protected Leuser Ecosystem, and referred to as the country’s lungs in the heart of the tsunami-plagued Aceh province. Tripa used to be teeming with one of the world’s populations of critically-endangered Sumatran orangutans. Tripa had the largest and the most critical capacity to store carbon in Aceh. A permit to convert the peat swamp had been issued to Kallista Alam by then Aceh Governor Irwandy Yusuf on August 25, 2011 – three months following the issuance of an indicative map for protected forests, identifying Tripa as a protected zone.

The license granted to Kallista involved 1,605 hectares of the peat swamp.

The indicative map of protected forests was drawn up in May 2011 and used in line with a ban on new clearing permits for an area of about 60 million hectares of forests and peatlands, launched under President Yudhoyono’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus (REDD+) program. The presidential instruction on the ban was issued on May 20 of 2011. There is also a law in place prohibiting the issuance of new concessions on land with peat layers more than three meters deep.

Despite this, Kallista Alam and Surya Panen Subur (SPS) 2, another plantation company, received concessions in Tripa. A lawsuit filed by Indonesia’s largest environmental group, Walhi, on November 23 of last year to have that license revoked was thrown out on April 2
this year by the Banda Aceh Administrative Court. Walhi has since appealed.

Ground checks and investigations carried out this year by a joint team from the Ministry of Forestry, REDD+ Task Force and the Ministry of Environment found evidence that Tripa had not just been cleared out and replanted with palm oil plantations, it had been burned,
slashed and thoroughly drained, thus gradually releasing carbon dioxide.

This joint team first flew into Aceh for the Tripa investigation on May 4. They had been accompanied by investigators from the National Police and the Attorney General’s Office.

The team works under the guidance of REDD+ task force chief Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, who heads the Presidential Unit for Development, Supervision and Oversight (UKP4),
The Tripa peatland forest is now on the brink of ruin. In the 1980s, this forest covered no less than 62 thousand hectares. Today, it extends to no more than 17 thousand hectares – and it continues to be razed off. There have been indications of arson in recent fires at the protected peat forest, according to the Environment Ministry, with strong indications that the culprits are companies waiting to convert the forested regions into palm oil plantations.

This is despite the fact that Tripa has been slotted back into the indicative map, better known as the moratorium map, this year. On May 21, UKP4 announced that an additional 379 thousand hectares had been added to the map. The protected area covered in the revision
– which is the second since the ban came into effect – amounts to 65.75 million hectares of peatlands, primary forests and conservation areas.

The first revision of the map occurred on November 20, 2011 and had come under intense media scrutiny – it had scrapped the Tripa forest off it. This was a reason used by Kallista Alam to point out that since Tripa had been scrapped off the map, converting the forest into a plantation on the basis of a permit issued by the Aceh Governor was consistent with existing regulations. However, the joint team investigating the Tripa case learned eventually that forest clearing activities by Kallista Alam dated back to years before 2011.

A broader investigative piece on the Tripa forest devastation is featured in this week’s TEMPO English Edition magazine.

Untung Widyanto (Aceh), Jajang Jamaluddin, Gita Lal (Jakarta)