Claim of 'unauthorized activity' by APRIL baseless, NGO concludes

JAKARTA ( - APRIL claims that the harvesting of plantation fiber in acacia-planted blocks in the concession of one of its major suppliers, at a time when the permit for this concession was under suspension, was a type of unauthorized activity.

In its explanation of the unauthorized activity, APRIL stated that the timber harvested from the acacia-planted blocks in the concession concerned, which is located on Rupat Island in the Sumatran province of Riau, was not brought to APRIL's mill.

However, a top Indonesian NGO was quick to refute APRILs explanation, saying that the unauthorized activity that allegedly took place only served to demonstrate that APRIL's supplier had shirked its responsibilities and the violations had in fact been deliberate.

This claim of unauthorized activity has been fabricated to conceal the companys negligence with respect to its responsibilities. In actual fact, they (APRILs supplier) intentionally committed these violations, Riko Kurniawan, Executive Director of Walhi Riau ("Friends of the Earth Indonesia" Riau Office), told on last Friday (Apr 29).

Riko went as far as to rebut APRILs statement directly, saying that plantation fiber from the unlawful harvesting definitely made its way to APRIL's mill.

So where did all the harvested acacia timber end up? Of course it was taken to APRIL. This means that APRIL has failed to meet its obligation to supervise (the operations of its suppliers). The responsibility for all of this rests with them (APRIL). Theres no point in making up this story about unauthorized activity, he said.

Riko pointed out that despite the suspension of the concession permit by the government, accountability for the concession still lay with the entity in charge of it, in this case the APRIL supplier concerned.

Even though the permit of APRILs supplier had been suspended, it remained their responsibility to ensure that no operations whatsoever were being performed on the ground, let alone any activities that breached the terms of the suspension. How could this harvested timber make its way out of the concession? After all, the concession is situated on an island (Rupat Island). This clearly needs to be investigated, he asserted.

These violations, in Rikos view, illustrate that the APRIL supplier violated all the promises that the company had previously made (in writing) to the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

The infringements committed by the APRIL supplier show that the company is unable of looking after its concession. This is what is really aggravating its position as well as speeding up the process whereby the companys concession permit is completely revoked, Riko explained.

We at Walhi are hoping that the Environment and Forestry Ministry will revoke the concession permit of APRILs supplier as soon as possible so the concession can be taken over by the state.

Calculations by the Environment and Forestry Ministry revealed that as many as 350 hectares of acacia-planted blocks were cleared by the APRIL supplier while its concession permit was under suspension by the ministry.

In a technical sense, there was without doubt an element of intent in the harvesting of 350 hectares of acacia. APRIL's supplier has already proven itself incapable of safeguarding its concession from unauthorized activity. They have failed to perform proper supervision, and as such firm action needs to be taken by the ministry with respect to this supplier, implored Riko.

In connection with this matter, was informed on Wednesday (May 4) that the ministry plans to send a letter to the APRIL supplier in the second week of May requesting an explanation of the purported unauthorized activity.