Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar showing teeth. In an unusual move last Sunday (24/7) at 9 p.m the minister with a flair for gender-equal male clothing she went on to social media killing the deal with Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL).
In her personal blog announced the cancellation of the land management agreement with a member company of pulp and paper company Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL).
The minister shut down the deal made by her ministry officials less than a month after the deal was signed. Company officials “regret the decision” and the foreign NGOs are celebrating.
The move of going viral on social media in English on late Sunday night is equally irregular. Very few ministers vent their anger on their personal website. This minister did.
Oddly enough, the language is identical to the foresthints.news article surfacing few hours later. It begs the role of foresthints.news and its relationship with the minister.
Culling the two Indonesian industrial giants using NGOs to use a “multi-door” approach to go after companies has been long pursued by NGOs as early as 2005 and 2014. This is not new.
In 2011 the Ministry of Environment sued 14 timber suppliers in a repeat of the 2005 claims made by groups like Greenpeace and the EU funded NGO. Greenpeace faces 14-counts of a U.S. criminal indictment under the organized crime act (R.I.C.O) usually reserved for drug cartels and members of the mafia.
It includes the Hatfields of Asia, Asian Pulp and Paper (APP) forcing the company to a mea culpa after refusing to provide the government maps about peat land. Again, foresthints.news is the voice of the minister.
It is important not to become fatalistic
Ecologist Philip Fearnside wrote, “It is important not to become fatalistic” and to maintain perspectives.
The reaction by the Minister seems departing from the usual coolness she is known to display.
The minister has declared a jihad on 14 companies as early as January 2012 initiated by the dissolved task force of the SBY administration. Theoretical claims lacked the physical evidence.
Foreign NGOs for long have attempted to criminalize the Indonesian industry by using a Boycott, Divestment & Sanction (BDS) campaign.
After the national police closed the cases against 14-companies based on a lack of evidence, on 21 July 2016 the minister went to her Facebook page ranting the minister will continue the fight.
Today (27/7), the ministry announced to commence investigations into reviewing the permits of APRIL suppliers long targeted by activists.
The minister known for a sketchy performance has so far avoided the wrath of the president. She has not expressed any concern about her future position in the government of president Jokowi.
However her eager participation of the presidents land distribution and land repossession strategy is a concern to many observers fearing the populist politics of the Jokowi administration leading to a South Africa agricultural disaster.
The Agricultural ministry forced a Greenpeace, industry inspired cartel to disband, after the Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) declared the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP) violated cartel ruling. The Forestry minister wanted to delay the process. The Agricultural minister would not have none of it.
However, the wrath against APRIL’s is not out of character. The minister, a graduate of the German Siegen University reflects the Germanic approach to rules and regulations. In her official and unofficial commentaries APRIL stands accused of not following protocol.
The ministry’s secretary-general Bambang Hendroyono told The Straits Times yesterday that the memorandum of understanding signed between the ministry’s conservation agency in Riau province and APRIL’s PT Gemilang Cipta Nusantara (GCN) on June 29 was cancelled after the ministry found that the company had failed to comply with “proper procedures”.
It is argued the company did not go through the secretariat-general.
The secretary-general said. “….the ministry will need to evaluate the performance of the company first before approving the collaboration.”
A similar project involving the Tesso Nilo National Park with WWF backfired with the government and WWF in loggerheads on who is to blame over the destruction of the national park evaluating the work of WWF national park.
Earlier, Darori, the ministry’s director general for forest protection and nature conservation,told the Indonesian news portal antaranews.com. “If it proves to have no benefit, we will terminate the partnership.”
But her unilateral decision to cancel the private-public cooperation with the 31,480 ha Zamrud National Park, which has carbon-rich peatland, only declared open last Thursday by Vice-President Jusuf Kalla does not address crucial details such as how the government plans to run the new national park.
According to the agreement, the Riau Conservation Agency and Gemilang Cipta Nusantara were to jointly manage 50,000 ha of land in Riau, comprising Zamrud National Park and several wildlife reserves in the Kampar Peninsula.
Government officials also stress the point of “no need” of a private-public partnership attempting to avoid creating a perception of Jokowi’s administration being unable to manage the national parks. But observers familiar with the capability of the Indonesian national parks administration taking the history into account argue that the record of the government is pitiable.
Informed NGO insiders were celebrating the minister’s unilateral move to cancel the deal with the “forest criminals”. Groups posing as activists are widely lauding the move by the minister.
This move plays into the hands of foreign transnational NGOs who funded the “battle” to evict APRIL and others from Kampar.
Political observers studying the civil society movements point out how foreign NGOs have managed to shape the political elite in Indonesia creating a Brazilian type of basket case economy. Dan Farber wrote, “…Commodity prices went down, and so did the value of Brazilian currency, making food exports unprofitable….”.
Multiple studies show that NGOs are impacting economic performance. A fact often lost in the emotional debate.
APRIL is headquartered in Singapore. Last December, it announced a US$100 million (S$136 million), 10-year investment to more than double the peat land areas it will restore and protect in the Kampar Peninsula.
The minister, not having any of it, represents a considerable reputational loss for the company for the otherwise cash-strapped government efforts to raise funds. Not accepting APRIL’s money is perhaps an indicator for the company executives, known to have a tainted environmental, poor employment and vendor relationship and criminal convictions on its corporate record, of changes yet to come.
APRIL and the ministry’s representatives had worked on the agreement since October last year “in good faith and the best of intentions”, officials said. “We followed the proper processes in a transparent manner and were not made aware of any irregularities.”
Green groups contacted by The Straits Times backed Ms Siti’s move, saying it would prevent companies from disrupting the government’s authority in managing conservation forests and protected areas.
Dr Herry Purnomo, a scientist at the Centre for International Forestry Research, said the private sector should understand that the government “takes the lead” in managing national parks and that they are “only invited to contribute”.
APRIL had released a statement last week to announce the collaboration, possibly making “the government feel that April has over-claimed its contributions”, said Dr Purnomo.