Indonesia: Attacks on land defenders are intensifying while govt. is trying to increase executive power & simplify investment

In Indonesia, one of the countries in Asia worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, land conflicts have been intensifying. Activists are denouncing that companies embroiled in these disputes with rural communities appear to be using the lull in oversight during the COVID-19 outbreak to strengthen their claims. Two local land defenders have been killed, four were arrested and at least two were seriously injured recently in connection with land disputes in Sumatra and Kalimantan. This is in the context of the government trying to pass an Omnibus Law on Job Creation by mid-year, which is meant to streamline business permits, investment requirements, and labour laws by simplifying 79 laws that are believed to hamper business. The move is criticized by environmental and human rights groups that say the bill would give the executive near-absolute power and would further reduce the strength of the environmental review process for risky business projects.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has reached out to the companies that have been linked to recent killings and arrests of land rights defenders - palm oil company Hamparan Masawit Bangun Persada (HMBP), palm oil company PT Bukit Barisan Indah Permai (which Artha Prigel is part of), which is part of Sawit Mas Group; and mining company Merdeka Copper Gold, the parent company of Pt Bumi Suksesindo and PT Damai Suksesindo. We also wrote to the alleged buyers of palm oil from PT Bukit Barisan Indah Permai - Louis Dreyfus, Mondelēz International, Musim Mas, Wilmar International, and Procter & Gamble - that were publicly mentioned in the articles about the situation. They are all members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which has a policy on human rights defenders. Civil society insists the policy should be applied in these cases, and some companies have referred to it in their responses to us. All companies, but Hamparan Masawit Bangun Persada (HMBP), responded to our invitation. Their responses are below. Civil society group WALHI sent a rejoinder to Merdeka Copper Gold's response, to which the company replied.

Get RSS feed of these results

All components of this story

Item
11 May 2020

Merdeka Copper Gold sent a response to Wahli's rejoinder

...Referring to the allegations regarding the incident, it was not a tent demolition by BSI, but by illegal acts by local anti-mining group that started with a blockade of BSI logistics convoy and continued with the destruction homes and property of employees, workers, and residents who are considered to support BSI mining operations... The anti-mining mob continue to gather in a tent built not far from the gate of the Pancer hamlet. And on Saturday, March 28, 2020...carried out an attack on the Pancer hamlet. The mob targeted homes and property of BSI workers and residents deemed to be support BSI, whose male occupants are being collected by police at the BSI EA Office.  The above incident is a recent effort with a local anti-mining group with the support of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Wahana Lingkungan Hidup/Walhi) to disrupt BSI activities. These disruptions particularly increased since October 2019... Walhi said that what happened was a riot, not the act of vandalism by the anti-mining group... The anti-mining group allegation that operations in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic endanger the health and safety of residents was just a pretext. Previously, this group had repeatedly called for closing mining operations for various reasons...

Download the full document here

Article
3 May 2020

Rejoinder by civil society group WALHI to Merdeka Copper Gold's response

Author: Walhi Jatim

This is an unofficial translation by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, the full rejoinder is available in Indonesian below.

In responding to Merdeka Copper Gold’s statement, we state that the incident [that took place on 27-28 March 2020] was a riot, not an attack carried out by the anti-mining residents. The clash was caused by the provocation carried out by the pro-mining residents/workers towards the anti-mining group and the violence that was perpetrated by the authorities when dispersing the anti-mining protest.

On 27 March 2020, the Government urged [the anti-mining residents] to close the "mining resistance struggle tent” as a way of curbing the spread of the COVID-19, while allowing the PT BSI to continue operating... The anti-mining residents (Sumberagung Village) suffered injuries from beatings perpetrated by both the authorities and pro-mining group.

The clash has led to the mobilisation of security forces in large numbers (at least 100 personnel) in Sumberagung village for one week after the incident occurred. Even today (30/4/2020), mining activities continue. Residents are increasingly worried because the continuation of mining activities in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic will bring a number of adverse impacts such as an increase in the spread of the pandemic in Sumberagung village...

The chronology of events on 27-28 March 2020 can be read on the WALHI East Java website: http://walhijatim.or.id/2020/03/kronologi-bentrokan-aksi-warga-tolak-tam...

Read the full post here

Company response
28 April 2020

Merdeka Copper Gold responded

Thank you for your invitation for PT Merdeka Copper Gold Tbk (MCG) to respond to the allegations against our subsidiaries, PT Bumi Suksesindo (BSI) and PT Damai Suksesindo (DSI).

Background

PT Bumi Suksesindo (BSI), holder of Mining Business License for Operation Production (IUP OP) No. 188/547/KEP / 429,011 / 2012; and has been designated as a National Vital Object (Obyek Vital Nasional/Obvitnas) according to Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources of the Republic of Indonesia No. 651/30/MEM/2016, which operates the Tujuh Bukit Mine in Sumberagung Village, Banyuwangi Regency, East Java Province, Indonesia. While PT Damai Suksesindo that holds Mining Business License for Exploration No. P2T/83/15.01/V/2018; DSI current activities is limited to geological mapping.

 During the Covid-19 condition, BSI is still allowed to operate under the directive of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources Letter No. 02.E/04/DJB/2020 regarding the Prevention and Handling of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) and The Governor of East Java Regulation No. 18/2020 regarding Large Scale Social Limitation Guidelines in Handling Corona Virus Disease 2019 (Covid-19), BSI continues operation with strict Covid-19 protocol to ensure the safety of our employees and the community at large.

Allegations

Referring to the allegations regarding the incident, it was not a tent demolition by BSI, but by illegal acts by local anti-mining group that started with a blockade of BSI logistics convoy and continued with the destruction homes and property of employees, workers, and residents who are considered to support BSI mining operations.

Below is the chronology of the incident:

  • The incident referred began on Thursday, March 26, 2020, at 21:00, when around 50 anti-mining mob blocked the BSI logistics vehicles at Lohwi T-junction, not far from the Sumberagung Village Office, Pesanggara District. The blockade was dispersed by the Banyuwangi Police on Friday afternoon, March 27, 2020. Not long after the police left the location, the anti-mining group who were dissatisfied because the blockade was opened, turned violent and intimidated BSI employees who happened to be passing by. A female BSI employee was slightly injured because she was kicked down from her motorcycle.
  • The incident sparked the anger of BSI workers and local residents, who then took the fight. The police returned to the location, gathering BSI workers and members of the community who were thought to be supporting the mine, which had already reached 130 people, securing them at BSI's External Affairs (EA) Office. These workers and members of the community are ordered and guarded so as not to retaliate against the anti-mining group.
  • The anti-mining mob continue to gather in a tent built not far from the gate of the Pancer hamlet. And on Saturday, March 28, 2020 around midnight, carried out an attack on the Pancer hamlet. The mob targeted homes and property of BSI workers and residents deemed to be support BSI, whose male occupants are being collected by police at the BSI EA Office.
  • As a result of anti-mining's vandalism, 60 motorcycles (including those belonging to journalists who were covering the incident), 2 automobiles, 13 houses, and 1 place of business owned by BSI workers and residents were damaged. In this incident a child was also the victim of a stone throwing by the anti-mining mob.  Several BSI workers vehicles which were left on the orders of the police around the Sumberagung Village Office were also damaged by the anti-mining mob.

The above incident is a recent effort with a local anti-mining group with the support of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Wahana Lingkungan Hidup/Walhi) to disrupt BSI activities.  These disruptions particularly increased since October 2019, when BSI began exploration in the Lompongan area which is legally within BSI IUP area.

BSI has so far prioritized dialogue with the anti-mining group and Walhi although BSI offer has been rejected.  Since October 2019, The anti-mining group has consistently harassed BSI employees, workers and residents who support BSI operation that in fact violate their right to work and live peacefully.  While, several assaults and violent acts (the latest on 28 March 2020) by the anti-mining group has been reported and are under investigation by law enforcement authorities.

I hope that the above clarifies the incident, please do not hesitate to contact me should you require further information.

Company non-response
27 April 2020

Hamparan Masawit Bangun Persada (HMBP) did not respond

Company response
27 April 2020

Louis Dreyfus responded

Thank you for your email. While LDC does not source from the mill mentioned, we are following the situation closely and have filed a grievance log (part of our monitoring system), as we await the outcome of the due legal process.

Company response
27 April 2020

Mondelēz International responded

Response issued to the Business & Human Rights Resource Center on April 27, 2020

At Mondelēz International, we are committed to making our snacks the right way, protecting the planet and respecting the human rights of people in our value chain, including our palm oil supply chain, in line with our Palm Oil Action Plan and using the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as a framework for preventing and addressing associated risks. Furthermore, we believe in the resolution of disputes through non-violent and peaceful means that promote the dignity of people and respect the rights of all.

Mondelēz International does not source directly from PT Bukit Barisan Indah Prima (BBIP) or its PT Arta Prigel subsidiary, however the company is a supplier to suppliers of ours. We are deeply concerned by the reports of violence in Pagar Batu village, and the resulting deaths of two members of the local community. The case is currently being investigated by the regional police, and we are awaiting the outcome of the investigation.

We became aware of this case in late April. Since then, we have launched our internal palm oil grievance mechanism process to confirm our relationship to PT Arta Prigel, and engaged with relevant suppliers to understand their actions to-date. We will follow closely the outcome of the police investigation and continue to monitor the situation through our ongoing supplier engagement.

For more information on our commitment to source palm oil sustainably, please see our Palm Oil Action Plan.

Company response
27 April 2020

Musim Mas responded

Thank you for the opportunity to respond. We reached out to Bukit Barisan Indah Prima (BBIP) when the local media raised this incident. BBIP was cooperative and answered promptly.

Based on the evidence gathered, the incident happened within PT Artha Prigel (AP)’s HGU, in an area where old palms have been replanted. The company has held the Land-Use Title (Hak Guna Usaha) for about 20 years.

We regret to note that there were fatalities involved in this case. We take a very serious position regarding Human and Labour Rights violations in our supply chain.

We will follow the progress of this case closely. Once the legal process is complete, we will take appropriate action about BBIP.

We will be filing a grievance on BBIP soon and we will keep you updated when it is published. Thank you.

On 11 May 2020, Musim Mas also informed us that they have opened a grievance case on BBIP, which can be referred to here.

Company response
27 April 2020

Procter & Gamble responded

We were deeply saddened to hear of this report and our hearts go out to those affected. Since receiving your message, we quickly explored our supply chain to understand our connection, if any. The news reports you shared cited Sawit Mas Group as a supplier of oleochemicals to P&G. However, this relationship ended years ago. We did learn that PT Arta Prigel, a subsidiary of PT Bukit Barisan Indah Prima (BBIP) is a direct supplier to Wilmar. Wilmar provides mass-balanced palm oil to us and many other companies in the consumer products industry. We immediately reached out to Wilmar to reaffirm that these actions within any part of our supply chain will not be tolerated and to learn how they are handling this situation. As you have seen from Wilmar’s statement to you, they are taking a number of steps – including an investigation beyond the ongoing inquiry by local authorities. We expect Wilmar to work with a credible and independent third party to investigate this incident further and take meaningful actions for both the families affected and the long-term land dispute involved. Respecting human rights is fundamental to how we manage our business. We follow the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and expect our business partners to operate in the same manner. We will stay closely connected with Wilmar on this important issue.

Download the full document here

Company response
27 April 2020

PT Bukit Barisan Indah Permai Group responded

With regards to the subject of your email, kindly please be informed that we are now working closely with the stakeholders on this matter.  Should you are interested to obtain the information related to background and chronology, You may refer to the following link, which has been published in Wilmar Group Website: https://www.wilmar-international.com/sustainability/grievance-procedure#wilmar-grievance-list

Company response
27 April 2020

Wilmar responded

Thank you for writing to Wilmar and providing us with an opportunity to respond.

We have published our statement on the issue – which can be found here and also attached to this email.

The case is also being investigated within Wilmar as a grievance, guided by the procedures in our Grievance Procedure which is aligned with the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGP) to underpin an effective non-judicial mechanism and reflects our commitment to the protection of human rights defenders, whistleblowers, complainants, and community spokespersons. Our Grievance Procedure is also consistent with the guiding RSPO Human Rights Defenders Policy.

Details of our investigation so far can be found in our grievance listing, available by scrolling to the particular case on our grievance list. Wilmar’s grievance unit was first made aware of a case implicating the company PT Arta Prigel - a subsidiary of PT Bukit Barisan Indah Prima (BBIP) -  from our regular media monitoring via a report that appeared in a regional Indonesian online news portal on 22 March 2020.  We initiated an investigation process with  PT BBIP on 26 March 2020. The case which involves the deaths of two local community members, is currently being investigated by the regional police, and we are awaiting the outcome findings of the investigation. As part of the grievance investigation, the Wilmar grievance unit has seen records that show there has been dialogue between the PT BBIP and the local community since at least 2019 with regards to a local land claim. PT BBIP also have a standard operating procedure (SOP) for community conflict resolution which has been in place since 2014.

Wilmar will also be appointing an external organisation to assist us in this grievance investigation.