The saga of the Widjajas and Tanotos, two powerful families who dominate one of the major industries in Indonesia, is not unlike the legendary feuding families of the postbellum American south, the Hatfields and McCoys.
The metaphor grows even stronger with William Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield being the patriarch of a wealthy timbering enterprise.
It is generally agreed that it was Devil Anse’s uncle who fired the first shot in what would turn out to be a three-decades’-long feud that would claim the lives of family members on both sides.
More than a century later, the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys remains synonymous with the perils of family honor, justice, and revenge.
In similar fashion, the Widjaja and Tanoto families have been bitter rivals for decades. However, they share a similar challenge in that both APP and APRIL have faced brutal accusations from eco-groups, such as Greenpeace, currently facing a federal indictment under the R.I.C.O act, over their companies’ deforestation practices, exaggerated human rights violation which turned out to be fabrication of imagination and abuses of the narrative by the eco-groups.
Since then, it has enjoyed a generally smooth relationship with Greenpeace that raised eyebrows within the environmental scene with claims Greenpeace sold out for a hefty contribution and payment for services. Claims denied by Greenpeace.
That is, until a farmer was killed on 28 February 2015 in a melee allegedly involving security guards employed by an APP subsidiary.
Within hours of the incident, Greenpeace distanced itself from APP, suspending its cooperation with the company and proving true to its philosophy of “no permanent friends, no permanent enemies.”
On 2 March 2015, Greenpeace threatened, “If APP doesn’t take this seriously, it will cost them their reputation.” Greenpeace is only adding to APP’s financial worries with its fair-weather friendship.
Aside from this bump in the road, on what was until recently a not-so-rocky relationship, when it comes to APRIL, APP and Greenpeace behave like mischievous children.
At a recent summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, a heckler shouting accusations at APRIL turned out to be a Greenpeace activist with dangerous liaisons.
The activist was found to be a plant associated with a local socialist extremist group.
The action was paid by Greenpeace according to sources in Greenpeace but it is part of the overall plans to bring APRIL to its knees.
Free along the lines, the enemy of my enemy is my friend; Greenpeace continues to drive the wedge into the Indonesian economy without any consequence or concern for others.
In January 2014, APRIL attempted to repair its eco-reputation when it announced that its mills would only take wood fibers sourced from plantation forests by 2019, a promise APP previously made on 31 August 2013.
By the time APRIL meets the 2019 deadline, APP will have already been free of natural rainforest wood since 2013, according to the thinking of the NGOs.
However, checking the fine print, the Hatfield’s feud with APRIL is about market share losses APP has suffered by the actions of Greenpeace.
In its localized Asian thinking, the engagement with Greenpeace serves competitive advantage, however, the animosity between the two companies are exploited to the hilt by the green action groups and their agent provocateurs.
Greenpeace for now has subdued Hatfield but at great cost. APP’s financial performance remains in the pits and the NGOs continue with a tactic attempt to delay the construction and activation of the largest mill in Southeast Asia by all means. A decision not always supported by the activists themselves.
Eventually, APP may figure out that the wait-and-see attitude by their distant cousins, APRIL, is likely a better strategy than kowtowing to the green truth-benders and volley of agent provocateurs.
Even though APP more swiftly has given into Greenpeace demands, the strategy only monetarily helps its reputation in the erratic eyes of Greenpeace, who proves time and time again that they are only loyal to the cause.