A silent protest in Pulau Padang

Transparency International recently launched a report on corruption in the forestry sector. Dede Kunaifi, Research Assistant in the Riau Forestry Unit of TI Indonesia, and Claire Martin, Programme Coordinator of the PAC REDD Project, talk about what happens when competing interests for land collide.

A farmer from Pulau Padang stitching his mouth shut to protest unanswered requests about why a protected forest that the farmers owned has been awarded to a large paper company.

Stitching their mouths shut is one of the more drastic of a series of actions that are being taken by people from Pulau Padang in Indonesia after requests from them for an explanation for the award of a new paper concession to PT RAPP (Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper-APRIL Group) went unanswered. As can be seen from the map below, this concession – indicated by red lines – was awarded on an area of protected forest – indicated by the dark green colour. Controversy has raged since 2009 when this concession was first awarded with communities expressing grave concern that a significant portion of land that they traditionally owned was included in the 41,205 hectare concession. PT RAPP has been criticized before for its failure to engage with and consult communities.

Map of PT RAPP (APRIL) concession that was awarded on an area of protected forest.

In a recent study undertaken by TI Indonesia, corruption risks in the forestry sector in Riau were outlined. In particular, there is considerable vulnerability to fraud in the process of granting concession permits. A 10 year process of preparing a new spatial plan for Riau Province which would narrow the scope for illegal maneuvers is still ongoing. Hampered by problems of too many overlapping interests and conflicts among institutions, those relying on the land are beginning to lose all hope for change.

Most of all they fear loss of critical land and forest access through a process of concession allocation which ignores their interests and which proceeds without any transparency.

The environmental impacts of the concession on the peat area could threaten the community's livelihood.

A Ministerial Decree in 2009 awarded PT RAPP (APRIL) a concession permit for a parcel of land in Pulau Padang with an area of 41,205 Ha. Pulau Padang residents immediately became fearful of losing access to their forest and land.

The majority of residents are farmers who cultivate crops, rubber and sago and their existence is now threatened by the issuance of this concession permit. The potential impacts are even broader with fears being expressed by communities of the potential environmental impact on the peat area with residents recalling the case of Sebangau, Central Kalimantan. They fear company operations could cause extensive destruction of the peat area causing major loss to the people who live around the peat forest, as well as threats of floods in the rainy season and fire during the dry season.

The community organised a rally which was attended by over 800 people.

Other actions taken by the community to express their dissatisfaction included a rally held on May 30, 2011, which attracted over 800 people from villages such as Lukit, Meranti Bunting, Pelantai, Mekarsari, Teluk Belitung, Bagan melibur, Mengkirau, and Tj.Padang, predominantly farming communities. Tensions continue to run high in the area, and tragically, in July 2011 heavy equipment working to clear land within the concession area was set alight, and the vehicle operator was killed.


The unilateral agreement between government at village, district and provincial level regarding the award of the operation has therefore led to much suffering in Pulau Padang.

The people of Pulau Padang are calling for their voice to be heard and for transparency in terms of how the award process proceeded. On November 2nd 2011, they went to A Commission and B Commission of Riau House of Representatives, to demand the council make representations to the Forestry Minister to stop the operation of PT RAPP on Pulau Padang.

Like residents of Teluk Meranti before them, the people of Pulau Padang want the permit reviewed. As an area of predominantly deep Peat Forest, they feel strongly that it should be protected by Presidential Decree No. 32 year 1990 and also the National Spatial Plan (RTRWN).

The hunger of the paper industry in Indonesia for land and forest to expand their operations seems to be insatiable.  Huge market demand supported by competitive prices has led to a rapid growth of the pulp and paper industry in Indonesia. Despite previous regulations to the contrary in the form of a Forestry Ministry Decree from 2004, the Indonesian Government no longer prohibits the use of natural wood for pulp and paper and this is being taken advantage of in this concession.

The limits of the land and the forests are all quickly being reached. Without regulations to rely on as well as clear and transparent enforcement of these, the future is looking bleak. The people of Pulau Padang will continue to call for their voices to be heard and Transparency International Indonesia’s Forestry unit in Riau will support their actions to bring about positive change. As REDD begins to take shape in Indonesia, we will also work with communities through the PAC REDD project to ensure they are able to fully participate in the process and that accountability plays a stronger role.

photo credits: photo 1 and 3: STR (Riau Farmer Union)/photo 2: Hariyansyah Usman (WALHI Riau)

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7 Responses to A silent protest in Pulau Padang

  1. Jamie Menon, APRIL 2 December 2011 at 11:35 am #

    APRIL fully respects the rights of all individuals and organizations to express their views. But we must take issue when such views omit or misrepresent key facts regarding our approach to open community engagement.

    The blog post “A silent protest in Pulau Padang” by Transparency International Indonesia does not provide an accurate picture of our company’s activities at Pulau Padang, Indonesia, and is not consistent with a true spirit of transparency.

    Firstly, APRIL (or RAPP as we are known as in Indonesia) has spent well over a year consulting widely with local villagers after being awarded concessions by the Indonesian government to develop sustainable fiber plantations on the island. The open consultation process has included negotiations and discussions at community and individual levels, as well as numerous public sessions involving local government, NGOs, local communities and attended by local media.

    Significantly, through transparent and constructive dialogue with self-elected village representatives, we have reached community development agreements with 12 out of the 14 villages involved, which reflect the development aspirations and requirements of their respective communities. We have a long-term interest in building a positive relationship with these communities, hence our engagement efforts are focused on dialogue to understand and address ongoing concerns.

    The blog post may have given readers the impression that there is majority opposition to APRIL’s operations on Pulau Padang. As in any diverse community of interest, engagement is a complex process and we accept that not every individual within every community will be supportive of us. Equally however, the rights of those communities to form the overall views that have led to agreements being reached should and must be respected by outside third parties.

    The blog post’s depiction of APRIL’s operations in Pulau Padang as being the result of “…unilateral agreement between government at village, district and provincial level”, does not reflect the range of views present across the communities of Pulau Padang regarding our operations. For example, it does not acknowledge the fact that in the spirit of democracy and transparency, the development of Pulau Padang is being collectively determined by a multi-stakeholder taskforce led by local government and comprising several Members of Parliament, representatives of the various local communities, NGOs and APRIL.

    In September this year, following escalating social unrest and protests, a multi-stakeholder team led by the deputy Regent and comprising local government, village leadership, APRIL representatives, NGOs, as well as local media, conducted a fact finding mission to verify and resolve reported land conflicts. Out of the 2000 plus hectares of land alleged by NGOs as encroached by APRIL, only 2.3 hectares were found to be genuine cases of overlap between community land and APRIL concessions. Disagreements over use of the 2.3 hectares were then resolved. These examples of good governance and transparency were widely reported in local media, but not reflected in the blog post.

    It is important to note that leadership of the 12 villages that have agreements with APRIL have formally appealed to the local government on behalf of their people to ensure responsible development proceeds because of the long-term benefits this will deliver to their communities.

    We will never condone the use of violence by any party. We especially condemn actions by certain parties that have resulted in several arson attacks on our property, as well as a fatal attack on one of our workers. Violent actions to create a climate of fear and intimidation amongst local communities are unacceptable, particularly given that peaceful avenues for resolution of differences exist. Despite these attacks, we remain firmly committed to resolving any concerns and differences of opinion lawfully and through multi-stakeholder engagement.

    Lastly, the blog post inaccurately describes APRIL’s concessions as being located on protected areas. To clarify, APRIL’s concessions are located on land zoned for fiber plantation development by national, provincial and local governments.

    It should be noted that before embarking on any development, APRIL voluntarily commissions third-party experts to conduct land surveys and identify high conservation values , including sensitive peat dome areas. Areas identified as containing high conservation values on our concessions are set aside and protected.

    Of the lands licensed to APRIL Indonesia, over 40% comprise a combination of protected and conservation areas, community enclaves and community livelihood plantations, with the balance being allocated for our plantations.

    Most of the facts cited above are publicly available and have been widely reported in local Indonesian media. We reiterate our disappointment that none of this was reflected in the blog post.

  2. Miq 22 December 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    The protesters need to be transparent of their motives. There is demand for land in Pulau Padang by local people, unfortunately this most of the land is designated as forest landuse which do not allow any kind of agriculture. Under this cicumstance, sago faming is allowed, however to own the land it is illegal. It doesnot mean there is no chance for islander to utilize the land. They can form a small enterprise and ask for concession right. This approach is being discuss for Pulau Tebing Tinggi. Once again, what is the true motive of the protesters? If they are pursuing ownership of the land, they are on the wrong path.

  3. raflis 6 February 2012 at 9:55 am #

    Some of the findings of the mediation team formed by the minister of forestry
    (reported on December 27, 2011)

    (1) Indigenous People Issues: The team found some statements of the parties involved with the existence of the population of Pulau Padang. After conducting primary and secondary data analysis informed that long time ago, long before an independent Indonesia, Padang Island is an island that is inhabited by some ethnic groups. they are building a good social interaction with each other
    (2) The Forest Area Boundary: There is no forest boundary. between concessions and the community
    (3) Space Governance and Community Claim: a) authority procedure (Community of Pulau Padang to acquire land and land through hereditary succession,The public has a land tenure system in the field either by habit or based on existing law, The team found certificate from the head of the village land and national land agency , System control is another form of physical mastery of the field with evidence old trees, old cemetery, the old village and so on.) b) The status of the Community: Governance Pulau Padang perform land management field in the form ; Rubber and Sago, Particularly Akit tribal communities do use non-timber forest products such as palm leaves for roofs and hunting.
    (4) Related Issues Tata Power and Governance: There are gardens and residential areas that overlap with the licensing PT. RAPP, Found deviations in the payment of compensation, Loss of Community Economic Resources (concerns the loss of local economic resources derived from uncertainty of tenure communities, concerns the loss of local economic resources derived from possible damage to the Pulau Padang)
    (5) Representation / Land Conflict Resolution: Representation has strong linkages with the received or not received IUPHHK plantation on the Pualu Padang and also directly related to the implementation process negotiating payment of compensation:. a). discord at the village level in addressing this licensing ( All head of the village in Pulau Padang signed an agreement with a company that essentially contains the protocol / negotiate ways to IUPHHK-HTI operations on the Pulau Padang, 3 Village Chief and then revoke its approval in a letter agreement, 12 (Twelve) Chairman of the Consultative Board on the village of Pulau Padang make A statement denying the existence of IUPHHK-plantation on the Pulau Padang), b) there is a mistake in giving compensation to the party that is not a land owner
    (6) the licensing process and environmental impact: a) There is controversy about the validity of the licensing conditions and poor regulations, resulting in legal uncertainty b) There are differences of opinion among experts about the impact of environment on the management of peatlands for concession
    (7) The potential for social conflict : The controversy that occurred in the field related to the IUPHHK-HTI on the Pulau Padang if not handled properly it will cause such things as the following: a) There is the potential for horizontal conflict among people who refused to accept the licensing IUPHHK-HTI and the company workers. b) There is potential for conflict between the community of Pulau Padang with the community in Selat Panjang because of order and security issues arising from the demonstration to the capital district.

  4. hermes replicas bags 4 May 2013 at 5:03 pm #

    Hello, your articles here A silent protest in Pulau Padang | space for transparency to write well, thanks for sharing!


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