In brief... DTE 57 - May 2003

Down to Earth No. 57, May 2003


Earth Day protests against TPL Sumatra pulp plant

April the 22nd - Earth Day - saw more protests against the Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL) plant (formerly Indorayon) which was reopened earlier this year. Environmental organisation WALHI, plus a host of national and local NGOs and community groups, dedicated the events to the people and environmental campaigners of Porsea, who have long suffered from the mill's pollution. Conflict with security forces securing the mill's operations have led to at least 2 deaths between 1998 and 2000 and sixteen people remain in custody since last year, including two priests. Four more people have been taken into police custody since then.

Twenty-five university students from Porsea began a hunger strike in late March, during a rally at the North Sumatra provincial assembly to demand permanent closure of the TPL mill, owned by the Raja Garuda Mas Group. There have also been strikes by school children in 21 schools, to protest against the noise, water and air pollution disrupting their schooling and their parents' livelihoods. One strikers' statement said "we feel threatened by the presence of police hired by PT TPL which terrorise and intimidate us and our parents." (See DTE 56 for background.) (Source: WALHI Earth Day statement 22/Apr/03; Jakarta Post 25/Mar/03; statement by striking school pupils circulated on Walhinews e-list 18/Mar/03)

Nuclear power plant for Madura?

Indonesia and South Korea are considering jointly building a $200 million nuclear power plant on the island of Madura, off the northern coast of East Java, according to an AFP report. Research and Technology minister Hatta Rajasa said the planned plant would have a capacity of 200 megawatts and start operations in 2015 if the government approves the project. "South Korea is very enthusiastic in cooperating with us in the construction of a nuclear power plant. They are even willing to bear the entire necessary investment," Rajasa was quoted as saying by AFP. (Report circulated by on Walhinews e-list 17/Apr/03).

In October last year the head of Indonesia's Development of Nuclear Power Supervisory Agency said that the country was planning to build a nuclear plant by 2015 at the latest to meet mounting power needs (Straits Times 19/Oct/02)

Indonesia's former ambitious nuclear plan promoted by former president Habibie when he was Research and Technology minister, was shelved in 1997 (see DTE 33:13 for more information).

Malaysian logging tycoon arrested

Police in West Papua have arrested a Malaysian logging entrepreneur, Hii Eii Sing, for his alleged involvement in illegal logging there. Nine other Malaysians working for PT Rimba Kayu Artamas, were arrested in Merdey, Manokwari district in January. An unnamed Indonesian co-owner of the company, who was also vice-chairman of the Indonesian Timber Business Association (Apkindo) was also arrested, according to police, for his role in log smuggling. The police said they would focus efforts on foreigners living in the territory. (Jakarta Post 22/Feb/03). (For more on illegal logging in West Papua, see DTE 55.)

Monsanto GM cotton furore

Farmers in South Sulawesi are demanding compensation from Monsanto, the US-based multinational which has been supplying genetically modified Bt cotton seeds in the region.

Farmers instructed to grow the seeds have suffered losses due to rising seed prices and falling raw cotton prices. Last year Indonesian NGOs reported crop yields at less than half the amount promised by the company. Some crops failed completely. Despite this, Monsanto offered GM maize for use in South Sulawesi.

Earlier this year the company suspended sales of the Bt cotton seed, for reasons not yet explained. (BioTani Indonesia Foundation/PAN Indonesia report, received 11/Apr/03; Kompas 21/Mar/02; Konphalindo press release 27/Mar/02. 
For background see DTE 51DTE 50 and DTE 49).


Acehnese activist hunted, civil society squeezed

Despite the peace agreement reached last year, the Indonesian police and military are continuing to clamp down on Acehnese activists in the pro-democracy civil society movement. The Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) in Aceh is appealing for support for one activist, Kautsar, who is being hunted by police for his involvement as a speaker in a peaceful demonstration organised by SURA (Voice of the Acehnese people) on January 9th, 2003. Kautsar, aged 26, was detained in July 2001 for speaking out against the US-based oil and gas multinational ExxonMobil's operations in Aceh - see DTE 51.

Letters expressing concern over the safety of Kautsar bin Muhammad Yus should be addressed to:

Joint Security Committee
Henri Dunant Centre in Geneva
Fax: 41-22 908-1140

The President of the Republic of Indonesia
Megawati Soekarnoputri
Fax: 62-21 345-2685 
Fax: 62-21 230-2420

Aceh-Sumatra National Liberation Front
P.O. Box 130, S-145 01 Norsborg, Sweden
Tel/Fax: +46 8 531 91275

The Chief of Police of the Republic of Indonesia
Jl Trunojoyo. No 3, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta 
Fax: 62-21 720-7277


Forests, People and Rights

A Down to Earth Special Report, supported by Forest Peoples Programme and Rainforest Foundation

Down to Earth's major new report, Forests, People and Rights, published June 2002, takes a comprehensive look at the ongoing crisis in Indonesia's forests and the continuing violation of forest peoples' rights.

The three-part report outlines the state of the forests, discusses the legal framework which denies forest peoples their customary rights to forest lands and resources, documents the political economy of forest destruction under Suharto, and charts the development of large-scale plantations.

The report then examines changes in policy and practice during the post-Suharto period up to the present. It considers the influences of the International Financial Institutions such as the IMF and World Bank, regional autonomy and pressure from civil society organisations.

Forests, People and Rights, then presents the case for community-based forest management as a positive alternative to 'timber-mining'. It highlights Indonesian organisations working in this area and includes six short case studies of communities in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Java and Lombok.

To order printed copies of the report (58 pages) send a cheque or money order for GBP 5.00 or USD 10.00 to Down to Earth

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