The Jakarta Post
Palm plantation firm PT Andika Permata Sawit Lestari (APSL) in Riau denied that it defied the Environment and Forestry Ministry and took seven of the ministry's officials hostage, blaming the incident on local farmers who were "offended" by the ministry.
APSL spokesperson Novalina Sirait said the company was being made a scapegoat because of the actions of the company’s partners, the local farmers. She called the company the “stepfather” of the local farmers.
“We are mentioned every time something happens on the local farmers’ lands. We don’t facilitate the local farmers. We are not in the position to defy the ministry,” Novalina said Monday.
“The local farmers had spoken to the media. It was not a hostage situation. It was their own spontaneity because they felt they were not respected,” she said.
“The [ministry] investigators came to a piece of customary land. They should have asked for permission if they want to enter someone’s property,” she said.
She denied the accusation that the local farmers were actually people hired from outside the area to control lands by posing as local farmers. “They are really locals, holding customary rights, like the Melayu, Bonai and Domo,” she said.
The incident started when the ministry dispatched the officials early last week to investigate a report that suggested deliberate burning had taken place in a Rokan Hulu forest. They subsequently found evidence that the firm had possibly illegally taken over land and planned to use it for expansion of the palm plantation.
The ministry said they wanted to seal the area, angering about 50 people who forced the officials to delete images and video footage that provided proof of irregularities found during the land concession investigation. (evi)
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