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null Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) Sinar Mas addresses Social Dispute with Indigenous Community

Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) Sinar Mas addresses Social Dispute with Indigenous Community

We understand that a coalition of NGOs have reached out with some troubling accusations directed at Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) supplier regarding an incident on 27th April 2021.

APPs position is to treat all accusations and grievances lodge against the company - whether publicly or privately – seriously with an open and evidence-based approach. It is important so that the facts of the case can be laid out, so that the assessment of events can be treated by all parties objectively. Where possible, APP will publicly disclose the facts of each incident. Where this is not, more insight can be attained through private communications. In many circumstances, APP will also be willing to address issues which have been addressed before and update the situation if necessary.

First, as a part of our operational plantation area, APP is required to undertake a High Conversation Value (HCV) assessment to ensure that natural forests and cultural sites are not encroached upon. The HCV assessment for this site was conducted on 30th June 2014 by Asia Pacific Consulting Solutions. Two ancestral gravesites were identified as part of this assessment, and the boundaries of these sites were clearly demarcated. The operational areas do not encroach on these sites, as is claimed, nor any other features of ecological or cultural value as part of HCV 6.

Furthermore, the indigenous communities in the area represent multiple tribes, including the Bathin (or “sub-tribe”) Sakai Beringin and Bathin Penaso, who collectively make claim to 750ha of land. Since 2013, we have entered into an agreement, as part of our FPIC, to share the harvest proceeds with these communities. In 2016, the community elected to withdraw 219ha of land from the agreement. APP continued to operate on the remaining 531ha under the same proceed-sharing agreement.

In contrast, the current claimants are not members of the local indigenous community, but are in fact migrants from outside of Riau province, who are engaged in the cultivation of oil palm crops. These claimants are not nomadic Sakai tribespeople, who engage primarily in subsistence agriculture.

It is part of our responsibility to the indigenous Sakai communities, based on our existing agreements, to protect these areas from incursions by new parties who are not indigenous to the area. We are also in the process of escalating a chronological report of the dispute to the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry, who have agreed to participate in mediating the issue.

Secondly, the narrative presented of excessive force is speculative and unsupported by the evidence. APP security personnel are trained to de-escalate confrontations and are explicitly instructed against the use of violence. The video evidence provided by NGOs depicts a chaotic scene that can be difficult to watch, but it does not show a single act of violence by security personnel. Rather, we see evidence that our security personnel continued to remain calm and executed their duties responsibly, even when they were being harassed by protestors.

The video also shows a female security personnel attempting to help an older woman up from the ground, but it does not show how the woman ended up on the ground, or whether she is resisting attempts to help her. However, a single still frame from this video has been used to misrepresent assistance as violence instead.

Lastly, the claims to the event of 27th April are part of a pattern of abuses toward the Sakai indigenous community. Land disputes in Indonesia are complex issues compounded by many factors. These can’t be resolved with a ‘single-fix’. The problem of social conflict/land disputes in Indonesia requires multi-stakeholder collaboration, through discussions involving government representatives, community leaders and civil society. 

The entire mediation process often takes years to achieve success. Since 2013, APP has managed to resolve more than half of the existing social conflicts and continues to make progress in resolving these social conflicts, through a combination of mediation and by addressing root causes of these disputes, which is the issue of rural poverty. This is evidenced by our 2013 cooperation with the indigenous Sakai communities in question here, a partnership that continues to have wide support.

More broadly, we have engaged in many processes to resolve land disputes. This includes being part of the government’s Land Objects for Agrarian Reform (TORA) for the Redistribution of Forest Land for the People. As a result of this, APP and its suppliers have voluntarily surrendered 50,000 ha of concession land to indigenous communities, and are in the process of surrendering an additional 150,000 ha for similar action.

APP also started a social program called DMPA (Desa Makmur Peduli Api), which is designed to address the root causes of land disputes by creating economic opportunities, improving livelihoods and raising quality of life. We are committed to helping villages to engage in sustainable agricultural activities by abandoning the process of clearing land by burning. To date, APP's DMPA program has reached more than 385 villages.

We recognize that we are not perfect, and there are several areas that we are committed to improving. 
Constructive feedback from interested parties will help us to be better. Our door is always open if any civil societies or other related parties want to discuss certain issues that concern them.

However, we must also defend ourselves against the spread of falsehoods and misrepresentations, as is the case here. Should you have any questions or concerns regarding our FPIC or our ongoing dialogue with indigenous communities, please feel free to reach out.

For further clarifications or enquiries, please contact (+6012 392 5343) 

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