A global day of action from seven countries around the world asked Indonesian President SBY, to publicly side with international calls to enforce the law in the Tripa Peat Swamp Forest and take a stand against illegal forest destruction.
The request was a simple one, and came several weeks after the revelation that the situation for the Sumatran orangutan in the Tripa peat swamp forests could not be more dire. And all the Indonesian President needs to do is enforce the laws already in place to protect the swamp forest being decimated by palm oil companies illegally in Aceh, Indonesia.
On April 17, the Head of the Indonesian Government’s special REDD+ Task Force, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, announced an immediate detailed investigation to determine if land allocation for palm oil plantations had been granted illegally.
Now says a conglomerate of conservation groups including Walhi/Friends of the Earth Indonesia and the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP), the Indonesian President must push to enforce existing Indonesian law. Acehnese lawyer, Kamarrudin, who is representing Community and Environment in the Tripa Case, explained:
"Five months ago, a criminal report was filed with Indonesia’s National Police. An order was then made by the National Police to the Provincial Police in Aceh to investigate the illegal issuance of a new palm oil permit to the company PT Kallista Alam by the then Governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf, that clearly violates National Spatial Planning law No 26/ 2007."
Yet despite a Central Police order that confirmed the case met the requirements for a criminal investigation said Wahli in a press release issued to Digital Journal, "Five months later, we have seen no evidence of any attempt at an investigation by police at any level. On the contrary," the group added, "it appears that the Aceh Police are even working for the company in question."
In clear violation of the laws protecting the Tripa Peat Swamps, a critical part of the Leuser ecosystem, concerned citizens from Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, USA, UK, Germany, and Brazil, among others, participated in protest messages calling for Indonesia to "enforce the law" and "save tripa."
Paul Hilton; SOCP/YEL
Confiscated illegal pet orangutans being cared for by the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program team, join with people around the world calling on "President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to save their friends, save Tripa and to Enforce the Law", in Medan, 26 April 2012. Image by Paul Hilton; SOCP/YEL.
The destruction of Tripa continues unabated, said Wahli, but just as importantly, this failure to act is "seriously undermining the credibility of Indonesia in the international spotlight to uphold and enforce its own national laws” said Kamarrudin. The lawyer added that several laws that have been broken, including "Law No.18/2004 concerning Plantations, Law No.32/2009 concerning Living Environment Protection and Management, and Presidential Decree No. 32/1990 concerning Protected Area Management."
But it isn't just the orangutans the destruction of the peat swamps is affecting said Wahli, it is also impacting the Indonesian people, local communities and the environment:
"Local communities see almost no benefits of the conversion of their environment to large scale oil palm plantations. Instead they only lose their livelihoods, based on the many natural resources and ecosystem services provided by an environment like Tripa."
The plight of the Tripa's orangutans first came to light last month after reports surfaced of orangutans being killed in fires set illegally by palm oil companies. At the beginning of April, Dr. Singleton of SOCP, told Digital Journal, that if deforestation wasn't halted, Sumatran orangutans could be extinct by the end of 2012.
Deddy Ratih, a forest campaigner at WALHI (Friends of the Earth Indonesia), said the situation in Tripa is a classic example of what is taking place all across the country. The campaigner adds, "President SBY also publicly stated the need to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. The question now remains, is he a man of action or a man of hollow words?"