In Brief... DTE 61 - May 2004

Military will continue to guard 'vital projects'

Indonesian military personnel will continue to maintain a 'third ring' of security around large oil, gas and mining installations during a transition period before the police take over. Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources, Purnomo Yusgiantoro, said the government would issue a decree setting out a 3-layer security system, consisting of internal security guards, local residents and military and police personnel.

The move is designed to reassure foreign investors, many of whom have been put off by concerns about security.

Up to now the military (TNI) and police - including the notorious special forces police, Brimob - have guarded oil, gas and mining companies. They claim they have a legal obligation to do so, if these are classified as 'vital assets' or 'vital projects'. Mining companies have been criticised by human rights organisations and shareholders for paying the military and police for protection, when these guards are often involved in serious human rights abuses against the local population. Violations by military guards at Freeport/Rio Tinto's huge West Papua gold mine have been well documented. Last year, the US/UK company was forced to admit last year that it had paid over USD11 million over two years to its military security guards. The exposure is believed to have contributed to an apparent u-turn by the military leadership on the issue of protecting vital projects: in November 2003 TNI commander General Endriartono said he wanted to withdraw troops from guarding such sites.

The new measure will delay this withdrawal for the next year or two, according to Purnomo. "President Megawati Soekarnoputri has agreed to keep the military in the third ring during this transition period," he said.

But with TNI beyond central government control in Aceh and West Papua, and local military commanders accustomed to receiving large sums for security services to companies, it is difficult to see how the military and police will be pushed back to the 'third ring'. It is more likely they will want to maintain a more prominent and more profitable position. (Source: Jakarta Post1/Mar/04; Miningindo 1/Mar/04. See DTE 57 and 59 for more background.)


Emergency decree on illegal logging

Forestry Minister Muhammad Prakosa has said the government will issue a new regulation in lieu of a law (Perpu) to combat forest destruction. "Efforts to stop illegal logging have been hampered by inadequate laws that cannot provide a fast solution or proper punishments to the culprits", he said in March. The Perpu will enable suspected illegal loggers to be tried immediately after arrest, and confiscation of vehicles, boats used to transport illegally felled timber. "All parties involved in illegal logging are considered forest terrorists. That is why the punishments should match those for terrorism", he said.

Ironically, another Perpu, signed the president the same month will lead to more forest destruction, by allowing mining in protected forests - see article, mining section, above.

It remains to be seen whether the illegal logging Perpu will be able to help prevent the rapid disappearance of Indonesia's once vast rainforests - currently estimated at 3.8 million hectares per year. WALHI reckons that state losses caused by illegal logging have reached USD1-3.5 billion per year, based on the assumption that 60-80% of the 70 million cubic metres of wood needed by the wood processing industry was stolen. Illegal exports of logs to Malaysia, China, Vietnam and India had reached 10 million cubic metres a year, with smuggling from West Papua alone reaching 600,000 m3 per month, says the group.

For years, Indonesian civil society organisations have called for a fundamental change in the way the country's forests are managed, including restoring customary rights over forests to indigenous peoples. WALHI wants an immediate logging moratorium, to prevent further destruction while the fundamentals are hammered out. However, the issue of land tenure reform was pushed aside by the Indonesian cabinet in favour of a high-profile, donor-driven campaign against illegal logging - a campaign which has failed so far to make any meaningful impact. (Jakarta Post 12/Mar/04; Antara 12/Apr/04)


WWF drops APP

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has withdrawn from a controversial collaboration with Indonesia's biggest pulp and paper company, the debt-ridden conglomerate APP (Asia Pulp and Paper). APP's operations in Sumatra have destroyed rainforests and absorbed illegally-felled timber from outside its concessions. The company's products were boycotted by major UK paper suppliers after its forest-destroying operations were exposed by a Friends of the Earth campaign in 2001. A US company, Office Depot, suspended sales of the APP supplies in January this year and Japanese customers have in the past threatened to terminate contracts. APP sells around 20,000 tons of photocopy paper to Japan per month - about 25% of its total sales.

WWF signed an agreement with APP in August last year, which gave the company 6 months to draft a plan to ensure that its pulpwood came from sustainable sources. The 12 year Sustainability Action Plan was also supposed to ensure legality of wood supplies, the resolution of land disputes with local communities and the conservation of forests of high social and environmental significance. When the six months was up in February, WWF announced it was pulling out of the agreement because APP had not adequately addressed the issues of protection of forests with high conservation value; use of third party mediators in social conflicts and long-term sustainability.

APP had agreed to set aside 70,000 hectares of its concession as a protected forest, but still planned to cut 178,000 hectares of natural forests over the next two years. An APP spokeswoman said a moratorium on felling natural forests was impossible because the company needed to clear natural forests in order to expand its plantations.

WWF is calling on APP customers and creditors to put pressure on the company to improve immediately its action plan, and to "review their business relations if APP fails to do this".

Last year, the New York-based group, Human Rights Watch, singled out APP in a January report linking paper and pulp companies to human rights abuses against local people (see

APP is controlled by the Widjaya family, which rose to economic prominence during the Suharto era. It is the biggest paper producer in Asia outside Japan and tenth biggest in the world. Its subsidiaries include Indah Kiat, Tjiwi Kimia, Pindo Deli, APP China and others in Indonesia, China, Singapore and India. (Source: Dow Jones 20/Feb/04; Financial Times 20/Feb/04; AP 20/Feb/04; 56; see DTE 52 for more background on APP.)


Students hunger strike against nuclear power plant

Thirteen students from Madura's Trunojoyo University staged a hunger strike in April to protest against the planned construction of a nuclear power plant on Madura and the involvement of the university's lecturers in a joint study with Indonesia's nuclear power agency BATAN.

In 2001, Indonesia reached an agreement with South Korea to build the plant in Ketapang, Sampang district, in 2015. The USD200 million project is managed by BATAN and the Korean Electric Power Company.

In February this year, BATAN announced that work on a separate project at Muria in Central Java would begin soon (see DTE 60). (Source: Jakarta Post 26/Apr/04. See also DTE 57 for more background).


Irish parliamentarians support UN review on Papua

A majority of Irish parliamentarians (TDs) from all political parties has endorsed an international campaign calling on the United Nations to review its role in the "Act of Free Choice" in West Papua. In the 1969 vote, dubbed by critics the "Act of No Choice", 1,022 handpicked Papuan elders were intimidated or bribed into choosing to join the Indonesian Republic.

Visiting Dublin, Papuan human rights campaigner John Rumbiak said "Irish politicians can be proud they are taking a lead in Europe on this issue, and we hope that this will act as a catalyst to mobilise support internationally…".

In February, Archbishop Desmond Tutu also called on the UN to act on West Papua - see DTE 60. (Irish Times, 26/Apr/04; forwarded by West Papua Action, Dublin, See for more on the UN Review campaign).


Questionnaire results

Many thanks to our readers who returned questionnaires sent with DTE 59. There were 55 respondents, with comments for and against retaining the printed version of the newsletter, plus a lot of useful suggestions.

Given the large number of people who do look at the printed version (in libraries, NGO training centres etc) we have decided to continue the printed version of the DTE newsletter for now.

If, however, you would like to be taken off the printed mailing list and be transferred to the email (rtf) list, please email us at This will reduce printing and mailing costs.