In Brief... DTE 67 - November 2005

Down to Earth No 67  November 2005

Police open fire on farmers in Lombok

Indonesian human rights NGO Elsam has protested against the police shooting of farmers attending a national meeting in Lombok. Twenty seven people suffered gunshot injuries on September 18th when police dispersed a farmers' union general assembly organised by the Nusa Tenggara Barat union and the Federation of Indonesian Farmers Unions (FSPI). Eight people were detained at the meeting, which was attended by farmers' representatives from 26 countries. The police initially gave permission for the meeting, but then issued a letter denying permission.

In an urgent action appeal, Elsam described the police tactics as a serious violation of the freedom of expression and states its concern for the victims. Elsam also said the action violated national and international laws including the Indonesian constitution, the 1999 Human Rights Act, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Indonesian penal code.

For more details contact Elsam at, see (Elsam Urgent Action No:05/UE/PH/Elsam/IX/05, 26/Sep/05)


Regulations respect indigenous management

Three villages in the Meratus mountains area of South Kalimantan have passed local legislation (Perdes) on natural resource management which make more space for indigenous people living in the area. The regulations are reported to be based on what local people want. Juhu, Hinas Kiri and Hinas Kanan, in Hulu Sungai Tengah district, South Kalimantan, passed village regulations between July and August this year. The regulations, on the use and management of natural resources in the Meratus forest, respect the existence of sacred forest, customary forest and protection forest. The use of these forests is only permitted for individual needs, not for economic gain, and is based on permission from the customary leader. Only local people who live in the area may make use of the forest, and only if they pay due regard to conservation. The Hinas Kiri regulation permits hunting of birds apart from those species which are sacred according to customary belief. Those who violate the regulation must pay fines. (Extract from BALIaN, July/Aug 05, via fkkm listserve)


CDC sells of plantations to Cargill

CDC/Actis sold all its oil palm plantation interests in Indonesia and PNG to the US giant agro-industry transnational Cargill in early November 2005. CDC Capital Partners (formerly the Commonwealth Development Corporation) was the UK government's vehicle for investing in the private sector in developing economies until 2004. It was then split into an investment company wholly owned by the British government (still called CDC) and a new private equity investor, Actis, which managed the government and private funds.

CDC/Actis controlled PT Asiatic Persada in Jambi and PT Harapan Sawit Lestari in West Kalimantan through its Singapore-based holding company Pacific Rim (PRPOL). It also had investments in PT Agro Indomas in Central Kalimantan. Despite CDC's public declarations about its ethical business principles, there are outstanding land disputes, human rights issues and environmental problems associated with the three concessions. DTE, together with Indonesian NGO networks WALHI and Sawit Watch, supported the local people in their advocacy efforts for several years. Perhaps these communities can take a shred of hope from the fact that CDC could have sold out to a Malaysian company which might pay less attention to social and environmental issues. Cargill is hardly a model of best practice when it comes to community rights but, as a member of the WWF-initiated Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), it does have a reputation to keep up.

The new venture is called CTP Holdings Pte Ltd. Cargill formed a joint venture in 2000 with Golden Agri-Resources and Temasek (a Singapore-based holding company) to purchase and run oil palm plantations in Indonesia. It already operates a 27,000ha oil palm plantation in South Sumatra, PT Hindoli. The majority of the plantation (17,000 ha) is run as a 'stakeholder' scheme with 8,500 farmer families.

"Palm oil demand is increasing globally and this acquisition represents a significant development for Cargill in the plantation business", says Paul Conway, head of Cargill's business in Asia and chairman of CTP Holdings. "The addition of these plantations is critical to diversifying our edible oils portfolio and will allow us to meet our customers' requirements for supply chain integrity and a high quality supply of palm oil and associated products." (Jakarta Post 8/Nov/05, and DTE files.


Parliament ratifies UN covenants

In September Indonesia's parliament ratified two major international human rights instruments: the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This commits Indonesia to eliminating all forms of restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and association, threats to religious freedom, forced labour and discrimination in the workplace. However, in clear reference to demands for independence for West Papua, Indonesia made an important reservation to the covenants, saying that the right to self-determination did "not apply to any part of a united state". Human rights group Elsam called the ratification half-hearted because it excluded two optional protocols on mechanisms for victims of human rights violations to individually claim for rights restoration, and on the abolition of capital punishment. (Tapol Bulletin 180, Oct/05; Jakarta Post 1/Oct/05)