Revoking Palm Oil Concession, Sorong Authorities Sued

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Stand of trees in forest at Malaumkarta Village, Sorong Regency West Papua Province. (EcoNusa Foundation/Moch. Fikri)

Sorong Regent and Sorong Regency’s Head of Investment and One Stop Service Office were charged by three palm oil plantation companies. The litigation came from PT Sorong Agro Sawitindo, PT Papua Lestari Abadi, and PT Inti Kebun Lestari given the fact that Sorong Government revoked the concessions of those three companies. The filed suit took place at the Jayapura Administrative Court from Monday, 23 August 2021.

Legal representative team for Sorong Government, Nur Amalia, said that palm oil concession revocation was the results of evaluation of palm oil concession at West Papua province. The revocation has met administrative requirements. “If there is a rumour saying that the Regent issued the decree all of sudden, it is not true at all,” said Nur Amalia.

West Papua Province Government evaluated the palm oil concession as mandated by the Presidential Instruction (Inpres) No. 8/2018 on moratorium of palm oil permit suspension  issued on September 2018. The Presidential Instruction has given order to eight policy holders at national and regional levels, including regents. To the regent, the regulation stipulates the suspension of new permit, data collection and mapping, verification of location and business permits. The findings will be delivered to the governor, Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Environment and Forestry, Ministry of Agrarian Affairs and Spatial Planning Agency. The regent is also instructed to follow the recommendation.

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License revocation is also based on the Declaration of Manokwari stipulating two provinces in Tanah Papua to “promote law enforcement and regulation related to natural resources in management of sustainable development, implementation of new permit moratorium for large scale plantation, mining and land-based industry, as well as review of the issued licenses by establishing special team.”

Sorong Government also has the other basis, namely Regional Bylaw No. 10/2017 on Recognition and Protection of Indigenous Peoples of Moi Tribe at Sorong Regency. The regulation mandates Sorong authority to “materialize customary area in sustainable manner based on customary law.”

These three foundations provide legal standing to Sorong Regent, Johny Kamuru, to revoke four palm oil company licenses. Natural resources management in the former concession areas will be prioritized to the indigenous community. This goes along with the commitment of West Papua Governor that the former concession areas will be prioritized for the indigenous community’s sustainable management. 

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However, three of the revoked companies charged Johny at the Jayapura Administrative Court. If combined, the concession areas of the three companies are more than 105,000 hectares which equal to the size of Jakarta Province, Tangerang and Bekasi Mayoralties.

Three companies failing a lawsuit here are PT Sorong Agro Sawitindo with the lawsuit number 31/G/2021/PTUN.JPR related to the issuance of Sorong Regent Decree on the Revocation of Plantation Permit. PT Papua Lestari Abadi charged Sorong Regent with the lawsuit number 32/G/2021/PTUN.JPR related to the issuance of Sorong Regent Decree on the Revocation of Plantation Permit.

In addition to litigation to Sorong Regent with the lawsuit number 30/G/2021/PTUN.JPR related to Sorong Regent Decree on the Revocation of Plantation Permit. PT Inti Kebun Lestari also sued the Sorong Regency’s Investment and One Stop Service Head with the lawsuit number 29/G/2021/PTUN.JPR related to the issuance of Decree of the Sorong Regency’s Investment and One Stop Service Head on the Revocation of Location Permit.

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Various community elements reacted to the litigation such as from MOI Community Solidarity and some indigenous figures, students and young peoples. They supported the revocation of concession permit. Moreover, the community supports also took place at three Mayoralties of Manokwari, Sorong, and Jayapura. 

Support for Johny Kamuru does not simply happen at Tanah Papua. Indonesian community also provides supports through online petition of Up to Friday, 6 September 2021, there were more than 34,000 peoples signing the petition. “The litigation here has got major public supports from the community,” said Nur Amalia.

In addition to Sorong Regency, revocation of license is also done by other governments in West Papua, such as South Sorong Regency, Teluk Bintuni, Fakfak, Teluk Wondama and South Manokwari. As from the total of 24 companies in West Papua, local government evaluates around 680,000 hectares of concession areas or 10 times of the Jakarta Province size. The government found that all palm oil estate companies committed violation of law. Sanctions are imposed to the companies based on the violation. Licenses of around 330,000 hectares plots of land in some regencies had been revoked.

Editor: Nur Alfiyah & Cindy Junicke Simangunsong

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