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Walhi: Violation that Astra Agro Lestari Did, Was Much Wider than Ever Documented

Doc. of Walhi/Smallholders union did demonstration in front of the regent of Morowali Utara office, claimed PT ANA to return the people’s areas on 16 May 2024.
Walhi: Violation that Astra Agro Lestari Did, Was Much Wider than Ever Documented

InfoSAWIT, JAKARTA – Friends of the Earth AS, WALHI (Friends of the Earth Indonesia), and Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Belanda) released the latest report about agrarian conflicts that might never end, the failure of governance and lack of accountability in the operation of PT Astra Agro Lestari Tbk., in Indonesia.

The report called "Memupuk Konflik: Bagaimana Astra Agro Lestari, Merek, dan Keuangan Besar Memanfaatkan Kesenjangan Tata Kelola di Indonesia" revealed the environment and wider governance violations that Astra Agro Lestari (AAL) did. It covered up illegal palm oil planting in forest areas in Indonesia, intimidation and crime for environmental campaigners’ rights, and operational of some subsidiaries of AAL which were also illegal.

The main finding in the report covered the overlapping of palm oil plantation concession areas in 17 subsidiaries of AAL that laid on 17.664 hectares in forest areas in Indonesia, 74% plantation concession areas in Sulawesi. Besides, at least, 1.100 hectares palm oil plantations of AAL were illegal because they developed in forest areas and three subsidiaries of AAL operated in Sulawesi without having official business rights.

The report also mentioned the consumers’ brands and agribusiness traders that got their supplies from AAL, and big capital owners that took advantages on the weak governance in Indonesia to run their operation.

To respond the findings, environment campaigner and stakeholders claimed to investigate and conduct close accountability. Manager of Forest and Plantation Campaign Walhi, Uli Arta Siagian emphasized it would need the authority in Indonesia so that AAL would return the people and smallholders’ areas. She also urged Ministry of Agrarian Affairs and Spatial should investigate the permits of AAL, confirm open access to the information.

“Land grabbing, human rights violation, and illegal operation in AAL should be the warn,” boru Siagian said, as in the official statement to InfoSAWIT, Wednesday (26/6/2024).

The report was launched two years after federation of riends of the Earth firsty documented environment and human rights violation that AAL did. These triggered consumers’ brands and capital owners to review their business relationship with the company. Since 2022, some consumers’ brands postponed to purchase palm oil from the subsidiaries of AAL in certain capacity.

The supervision on AAL went viral to many countries. Since January 2024, European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) would oblige the companies to show their free deforestation supply chain, respect international scale – human rights legal, and should have free prior informed consent (FPIC) approvement. If everything is not obeyed, there would be sanction significantly.

“The company could publish rhetoric commitment to emphasize human rights and realize environment sustainability but it would be enough to speak only. It needs accountability,” Senior Campaigner of Forest and Area, American Friends of the Earth, Gaurav Madan said.

Every campaigner emphasized it would be urgent to switch the cultivation in people’s base to stop deforestation and human rights violation with palm oil expansion in industrial scale. They guaranteed that the capital owners and palm oil buyers should stop their supports to monoculture plantation model that damaged the environment.

“To stop deforestation and human rights violation, we have to switch the forest cultivation in people – base. The capital owners and palm oil buyers should stop promoting palm oil industrial expansion,” Program Coordinator of International Forest at Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth, Netherland), Danielle van Oijen said.

Danielle thought, to continue purchasing (palm oil products) from AAL would be risky for it has deforestation, illegal issues, and human rights violation risks. “The legal officers in European Union should investigate every transaction that involved AAL in a whole. This is about to confirm obedience to EUDR,” Danielle said. (T1)