Fighting for ecological justice

Indigenous Peoples Hope Indonesia Justice System severely punish the Convicted of Corruption and Money Laundering.

The corruption in the permits for oil palm plantations committed by the owner of PT Duta Palma, Surya Darmadi, not only has an impact on state losses but also on the livelihoods of the Talang Mamak Indigenous People who live there.

“The saying goes that the Talang Mamak people, they want to kill Talang Mamak people so that they can annexe the Talang Mamak lands,” said Gilung, a member of Kaoem Telapak who also serves as Chair of the Regional Board of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (PD AMAN) Indragiri Hulu, Riau, on Thursday, January 19, 2023, at the event media briefing organized by the National Walhi.

Gilung said that the Talang Mamak Indigenous People were the group most affected by the forestry corruption committed by Surya Darmadi. The conflict between the oil palm corporation and the Talang Mamak Indigenous People started in 1996. According to Gilung, the indigenous people did not understand what was happening in their ancestral territory at that time. Suddenly, oil palm plantations appeared in their ancestral domain.

Before 1996, Indigenous Peoples’ lives were relatively happier. “The forest is still there. People can find fish, rattan, resin, and durian,” said Gilung. Now the living space for Indigenous Peoples is challenging. Indigenous peoples have difficulty getting into their lands because they already belong to oil palm corporations.

In addition, biodiversity loss due to large-scale monoculture plantations also makes Indigenous Peoples vulnerable to disease because many medicinal plant species are lost. “The Talang Mamak lost a lot. Rivers, forests, and culture were gone. Traditional medicines vanished. Only less than a hundred species of them remain,” said Gilung.

Gilung, Member of Kaoem Telapak, di Riau

Kaoem Telapak’s 2022 report entitled Encouraging Transparency: Analysis of Challenges and Opportunities in the New Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) Certification Scheme said that the corruption case committed by Surya Darmadi was the largest corruption scandal in palm oil permits.

Surya Darmadi is an entrepreneur and owner of PT Duta Palma Group, founded in 1994 in Jakarta. Surya Darmadi’s business focuses on plantations and palm oil processing. Its largest oil palm plantation is in Riau.

Surya Darmadi manages the palm oil business through several subsidiaries. In the Kaoem Telapak report, his seven oil palm plantation subsidiaries already have ISPO certificates, but their current ISPO status still needs to be discovered.

Surya Darmadi allegedly bribed former Riau Governor Annas Maamun to convert 35,095 hectares of forest into an oil palm plantation in 2014. Not only that, but Surya Darmadi also bribed the former Regent of Indragiri Hulu Raja Thamsir Rahman from 1999 to 2008 to smoothen the licensing of his oil palm plantations in Riau. As a result of his actions, state losses reached 73 trillion rupiahs.

August 2022, the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic of Indonesia declared Surya Darmadi a suspect in criminal offences against corruption in oil palm plantation licensing and money laundering. Until now (26 January 2023), the trial of the Surya Darmadi case is still ongoing.

Responding to this case, Gilung hopes that Law can punish the perpetrators severely. “We hope that from the ongoing legal process, those who robbed us get the maximum sentence, and our rights must return to us. Punish the perpetrators to the maximum,” said Gilung.