[TuK INDONESIA] Palm Oil Production and Abuse of Human Rights

The Bisnis online publishes two articles on oil palm black campaigns (16/02/2015 21:02 WIB)1 and oil palm negative campaigns (18/02/2015 14:25 WIB)2 represent perceptions of government and business people. Readers and public have rights to actual and objective information and news.

This article will not question the meaning of black and negative campaigns. This article tries to describe the links between palm oil production and abuse of human rights. As there have been various published reports pertaining abuses of human rights by the operations of palm oil production industry (Promised Land, 20053); Losing Ground, 20084; Conflict or Consent, 20135; Institute for Ecosoc Rights, 2015).

The many land cases involved oil palm plantations in expanding districts exemplify how the acquisition of lands belonging to local communities in the name of oil palm is facilitated by weak protection in the law of community rights in land, forests and other areas critical to their livelihoods. A number of these legal loopholes are outlined below.

a. ‘Control for the greatest welfare of the people over land, air and natural resources’ as stipulated in Article 33 of the Indonesian Constitution of 1945 is unilaterally interpreted and achieved by the government through models and development programmes which are devoid of democratic participation, including in oil palm development plans. In practice, oil palm development is imposed on communities without providing them with any substantial bargaining position or right to negotiate or simply reject the terms of the development.

b. With regard to land, the government has locked itself into a narrow interpretation of State land which has become the object of large-scale oil palm plantations. Even though Indonesian laws make clear the distinction between unencumbered State land with free status and State lands encumbered with rights, in practice, such legal distinctions do not provide strong enough protection to community control, management and use of their lands.

c. Government authorities require evidence of ownership in the form of land titles or certificates to prove actual encumbered rights over State lands, in line with land administration regulations. Such land administration laws do not recognise different forms of land rights, such as those over lands that are not occupied or otherwise actively or regularly used by individuals yet which hold vital functions for communities and their livelihoods, such as forested areas, watersheds and other social and cultural sites.

d. Weak regulations and lack of knowledge and understanding on the part of government authorities on community tenure systems at the local level create a power imbalance which disfavours communities in negotiations with companies. On the one hand, the company uses the permits issued by the government to negotiate ways of obtaining community lands. Izin lokasi, for example, is in practice always interpreted as a right over the entirety of the lands and areas stipulated in the location permit. On the other hand, the communities lack adequate support and information to contest and prevent the conversion of their lands and patterns of livelihoods without their full and informed consent.

e. One consequence of this imbalance in bargaining power is that communities often find themselves compensated only for damages to their crops, which is far from adequate considering the radical changes in their lives and the threats to their economic security that such developments entail.

The obstacles described above have resulted in widespread neglect by the government of its obligation to give full and effective protection to the constitutional rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. As has been discussed extensively in other sources (Promised Land, 2005; Losing Ground, 2008; Ecosoc Institute, 2015), these violations are in breach of at least the following articles of the 1945 Constitution:

Article 18B

(1) The State recognises and respects units of regional authorities that are special and distinct, which shall be regulated by law.

(2) The State recognises and respects traditional communities along with their traditional customary rights as long as these remain in existence and are in accordance with the societal development and the principles of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia, and shall be regulated by law.

Article 28F

Every person shall have the right to communicate and to obtain information for the purpose of the development of his/her self and social environment, and shall have the right to seek, obtain, possess, store, process and convey information by employing all available types of channels.

Article 28H

(1) Every person shall have the right to live in physical and spiritual prosperity, to have a home and to enjoy a good and healthy environment, and shall have the right to obtain medical care.

(2) Every person shall have the right to receive facilitation and special treatment to have the same opportunity and benefit in order to achieve equality and fairness.

(3) Every person shall have the right to social security in order to develop oneself fully as a dignified human being.

(4) Every person shall have the right to own personal property, and such property may not be unjustly held possession of by any party.

Article 28I

(2) Every person shall have the right to be free from discriminative treatment based upon any grounds whatsoever and shall have the right to protection from such discriminative treatment.

(3) The cultural identities and rights of traditional communities shall be respected in accordance with the development of times and civilisations.

(4) The protection, advancement, upholding and fulfilment of human rights are the responsibility of the state, especially the government.

Article 33

(1) The economy shall be organised as a common endeavour based upon the principles of the family system.

(2) Sectors of production which are important for the country and affect the life of the people shall be under the powers of the State.

(3) The land, the waters and the natural resources within shall be under the powers of the State and shall be used to the greatest benefit of the people.

(4) The organisation of the national economy shall be conducted on the basis of economic democracy upholding the principles of togetherness, efficiency with justice, continuity, environmental perspective, self-sufficiency, and keeping a balance in the progress and unity of the national economy.

(5) Further provisions relating to the implementation of this article shall be regulated by law.

What about your palm oil that you are buying and consuming now? You could kindly check and ask for clarifications to manufacturers who process or refine CPO to cooking oil for your daily uses. It is a progressive move should the company tell you the plantations and mills where CPO is sourced and produced before it milled from fresh and best palm fruit bunches (FFB).

Editing team believes that sustainable, responsible and fairer palm oil production does not violate regulations or exploit loopholes persist in applicable national laws. In other words, palm oil is produced in a way does not breach articles of the constitution, morally correct and socially appropriate, to be mentioned free from any links to abuse of human rights.

1 Kampanye Hitam Sawit, Kementan Bilang Petani Kuasai 4,4 Juta Hektare, akses di http://industri.bisnis.com/read/20150216/99/403377/kampanye-hitam-sawit-kementan-bilang-petani-kuasai-44-juta-hektare

2 Kampanye Negatif Sawit, Gapki Tolak Masalah Lahan Dikaitkan HAM, akses di http://industri.bisnis.com/read/20150218/99/404111/kampanye-negatif-sawit-gapki-tolak-masalah-lahan-dikaitkan-ham

This post is also available in: Indonesian

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