“We won!” screamed a lawyer of the Sorong Regent on the phone. It gave relief after few days of waiting for the court verdict. It sounds normal to enjoy the announced victory despite the fact that the plaintiff might appeal to higher court. However, the toil of team work was paid.
Jayapura Administrative Court (PTUN) in Papua, declined the lawsuits of two palm oil companies, PT Papua Lestari Abadi and PT Sorong Agro Sawitindo after Sorong Regent, Johny Kamuru, revoked the companies’ business permits, location permits, and environment permits. Based on the verdict addressed by the judges led by Masdin on 7 December 2021, it was said that both companies do not suffer from any harm to sue the regent’s decision.
The revocation of 15,631 hectares of PT. Papua Lestari Abadi and 40,000 hectares of PT. Sorong Agro Sawitindo concessions was done by Johny Kamuru in April 2021. In addition, Johny also revoked the other two companies’ concessions, such as PT. Inti Kebun Lestari with its 34,400 hectares concession. The regent’s measure was deemed a follow-up of license review process led by West Papua Governor through the Food, Horticulture, and Plantation Office (TPHBun) and license review team, with the support given by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
The lawsuits here might be deemed a pebble along the nerve-wrecking process of palm oil concession evaluation in Tanah Papua. As a matter of fact, the license evaluation is very long process. The revocation of palm oil concessions was just the beginning. It takes a very long process as the process ranges from review, evaluation, revocation up through to the handover back to the indigenous community as the rights holder.
There was winding process prior to the court verdict. There was a small team focussing on the license evaluation from scratch, namely representatives from West Papua TPHBun, expert team, and EcoNusa team. The more data was collected, the more obvious the perspective of each team member would be. Based on the data, there is one corporate group that has 3 palm oil companies in West Papua. As from the 3, only 2 started planting in the concession areas which expand far less than the given concession. The rest is not well administered. This is the fact found during the review.
The team found a shocking fact upon reviewing the data. In fact, not all companies are ‘clean’ without any violation. All the listed companies had committed lawbreaking. The data shows that the companies lack compliance.
To endorse the findings, the team decided to fly over the concessions areas by rented plane. Benidiktus Hery, the head of West Papua TPHBun, is the competent person in plantation who has frequently inspected the plantation areas. However, helicopter view inspection shocked Hery and team upon seeing the condition of concession areas. Forests were cleared out on the brink of forested areas. It is hard to imagine when the forests are totally gone.
Upon having series of virtual meetings ranging from provincial and regional apparatus organization (OPD) to the companies, then in 2021 the team could hand over the report on license evaluation. The report was given to West Papua Governor which was delivered to 8 regents. The handover was attended by KPK top officials. The governor and regents had commitment to have action plans and even revoke licenses as recommended by the evaluation report.
At the beginning, many thought that the process would stop on the revocation as it was enough to save forests in Tanah Papua. However, the next challenges have been waiting. The process keeps going until they are returned to the indigenous community for sustainable management.
As from the total of 13 companies whose licenses were revoked, only 3 companies filed lawsuits. There are also 3 companies whose concessions areas were reduced. On the other hand, the team should cope with the next trial process. PT SAS and PT PLA officially declared for court appeal following their loss at PTUN Jayapura. However, we are ready to fight till the end!
Editor: Leo Wahyudi