TheJakartaPost

Please Update your browser

Your browser is out of date, and may not be compatible with our website. A list of the most popular web browsers can be found below.
Just click on the icons to get to the download page.

Jakarta Post

North Sumatra palm oil magnate at center of land conversion case

  • Apriadi Gunawan

    The Jakarta Post

Medan   /   Sun, February 24, 2019   /   06:21 pm
North Sumatra palm oil magnate at center of land conversion case According to Agriculture Ministry data in 2015, total oil palm plantation area stood at 11.24 million hectares. (Shutterstock/File)

An oil palm plantation land conversion case in Langkat, North Sumatra, has dragged into the mix a family involved in politics and business in the province.

The case emerged when the police named Musa Idishah, the son of palm oil businessman and philanthropist Anif Shah, a suspect in relation to the alleged conversion of 366 hectares in the regency’s three districts—Sei Lepan, West Brandan, Besitang—which the police claimed to be protected forest areas.        

Idishah, the director of PT Anugerah Langkat Makmur (ALAM), is accused of violating Law No. 18/2013 on the prevention of forest clearing and destruction, Law No. 39/2014 on plantations and Law No. 32/2009 on environmental protection and management.

The case is the first to implicate members of the family, which has been involved in the palm oil and property business for two generations.  

North Sumatra Deputy Governor Musa Rajekshah, who is also Idishah’s brother, said his family would cooperate with police, but maintained that ALAM and his brother had done nothing wrong since they had obtained the necessary permits for the plantation.

“There are many plantation companies in the location. If the same regulation is applied, why would only one company come up [as a suspect]?” he questioned.

The businessman-cum-politician has also been summoned as a witness in the case as a former director of the company.

Anif, the patriarch of the family, has made his fortune mainly through the palm oil and property business. Along with ALAM, he also founded PT Anugerah Sawindo and the Alam Group. His family is also in control of several housing areas in the province, including the affluent Cemara Asri.

He also runs the Haji Anif and Anugerah Pendidikan Indonesia foundations, which are committed to the welfare of students and teachers. 

The family entered the local political scene after Rajekshah secured a victory in the gubernatorial election last year alongside former army strategic reserves commander  Edy Rahmayadi.

They were supported by the Gerindra Party, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the Golkar Party, the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the NasDem Party.  

The family’s business had faced accusations regarding land ownership previously. Among accusations emerged in 2013, when Anugerah Sawindo was accused of fraudulent land acquisition in Sampali village, Deli Serdang. The case was reported to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) but there was no follow up.

The case related to ALAM has been surrounded by controversy because many parties, including relevant local agencies, have said that the land mentioned in the case was permitted to be used for plantations since it was located in production forests.

North Sumatra Forestry Agency head Harlen Purba said ALAM’s plantation in Langkat was on “limited production forest” areas, in which only selective logging could be carried. Concession holders are not allowed to cut down all trees in the forests under this category because it will make the areas, usually located on hills or mountain slopes, prone to floods and landslides. 

Harlen was also puzzled by the case since there were other companies and residents that operated plantations in the area.

“There are other parties aside from ALAM that cultivate the production areas,” said Harlen.  

There has been speculation that the case came to light on account of the family’s support for presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, after a 17-minute video went viral recently about a raid at the family’s house.

In the video, a woman who recorded the raid could be seen confronting police members. “[The reason for this case is] not clear, right? We are obliged to vote for [candidate number] one but we refused, so this is why you all have come here, right? Traitor,” the woman in the video says to the police in anger. She was referring to the candidacy number of incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

The police later identified the woman recording the video as Wara, the daughter of Anif. They have summoned her for questioning, but she has fled the country.  

Despite the support of Jokowi’s opposition parties—Gerindra, the PKS and PAN, Edy and Rajekshah said they remained neutral in the April presidential and legislative elections.  

Political observer Sublihar from the Medan-based North Sumatra University said that while Idishah and his company might have violated the law, the timing of the case had caused people to link it to the elections.

“It is better for the police to proceed with the case after the April elections,” he said.