Environmental News: Activists Urge State Court in Aceh to Execute Supreme Court Verdict Against Palm Oil Company

Illegal clearing of peat swamps destroys the integrity of the Leuser Ecosystem Photo : Paul Hilton

The Aceh Citizen Lawsuit Movement (GeRAM) demonstrated in front of the Meulaboh State Court, West Aceh District this week. GeRAM and their supporters urged the Meulaboh State Court to immediately carry out the execution of the Supreme Court verdict against PT Kallista Alam (PT KA).

In 2014, PT KA was declared guilty of a Ongoing Environmental criminal act in the Tripa Peat Swamp, Nagan Raya District. Tripa is part of the world renowned Leuser Ecosystem and prior to the destruction was known as the “Orangutan Capital of the World” for its density of orangutan populations. In the precedent-setting verdict, PT Kallista Alam was ordered to pay 18 million dollars to restore 1000 hectares of burnt land.

Fahmi Muhammad, GeRAM spokesperson, explained that their demonstration seeks to push the Meulaboh State Court to ensure PT KA immediately pay their due fines, serve their sentences and restore the shocking destruction they were responsible for in the Tripa Swamp five years ago. “ We have waited over two years but fines to the state treasury amounting to 16.5 million USD Rp have not yet been paid. This represents a huge loss to the state”, Fahmi explained.

On 18 April 2017, the Supreme Court rejected PT KA’s judicial review so the Meulaboh State Court has no legal basis to delay carrying out the verdict against PT KA. Yet on 20 July 2017 the head of the Meulaboh State Court inexplicably granted legal protection to PT KA.

GeRAM urges Meulaboh State Court to execute verdict

The Tripa Peat Swamp is one of the three largest in Aceh, with peat depth reaching to 12 meters thus it plays a critical function in carbon storage. The millions of tons of carbon released into our atmosphere by burning peat forests is an annual problem in Indonesia; immensely costly not only to Indonesia’s economy but to the health and safety of its citizens, those of neighbouring countries like Singapore, and in fact contributes to global climate change.

“The destruction of Tripa was an environmental tragedy that must never be allowed to happen again. If PT KA is able to get away with avoiding justice, this sets a terrible precedent for environmental law all around Indonesia. More companies will dare to illegally destroy the environment for the sake of their profits if they see that Indonesian law can be played with like this”, Fahmi concluded.

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