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Indonesia to probe beheadings of farmers



JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia’s president has ordered an investigation into the videotaped beheadings of two men — allegedly by security forces hired to secure the borders of a palm oil plantation.

Six suspects — five plantation workers and a farmer — already have been arrested for their alleged role in the deaths, national police spokesman Col. Boy Raffli Amar said Friday. Eight other suspects are at large.

Indonesia is one of the world’s largest producers of palm oil — used to make everything from lipstick to biscuits to biofuel — and the rapid expansion of plantations across the sprawling archipelagic nation of 240 million has led to many violent disputes with local communities.

Land is often forcibly seized — also by timber, pulp and paper companies — without any offers of compensation. But the allegations by farmers from South Sumatra province, if confirmed, would be by far the most shocking so far.

A dozen men, accompanied by a retired general, traveled to the capital, Jakarta, earlier this week to present their case before Parliament’s human rights commission.

They told its members at least 30 farmers have been killed by security forces and men hired by a palm oil company in Mesuji district since 2009 — two of them beheaded in April.

They presented two video clips as evidence, though one appears to be unrelated to the dispute.

In the first, a decapitated corpse is shown hanging from an electricity pole in Mesuji, according to witnesses. Then it jumps to another headless body on the ground, masked men, some toting assault rifles, milling about in the background.

Next, two bloody heads are shown on the roof of a truck, also in Mesuji.

The other clip appears to be unrelated, however, possibly from the separatist insurgency in southern Thailand, judging from the dialect and words of the assailant.

It shows a man dressed in camouflage standing in the woods, an assault rifle slung over his shoulder, holding onto a freshly severed head by the hair. “Fathoni Darussalam,” he says triumphantly, using the cry of Pattani separatists in southern Thailand. “Freedom! Freedom!”

Ifdhal Kasim, who heads the National Commission on Human Rights, condemned the killings.

But the details, he said, remain very murky.

There appear to have been several, separate deadly clashes in the last year between farmers and three palm oil companies in Mesuji — which straddles South Sumatra and Lampung provinces.

As concession sizes grew, he added, thousands of people were driven from their homes.

Facing protests, one of the companies formed an integrated security team, consisting of civilian guards, members of an elite police unit and military troops to protect their plantation, he said.

“It’s not clear who was behind the beheadings or the other killings,” he said. “But if there’s even a hint that security forces were involved, they should be investigated first.”

Farmers also appeared to have killed at least five plantation workers and security guards in retaliation for the beheadings, he said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, meanwhile, said he was shocked by the claims.

He immediately sent a task force made up of officials from the Ministry of Security and the national police to investigate, according to his spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha.


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Four primates in Indonesia on the brink of extinction

Wahyoe Boediwardhana

Four primates in Indonesia have been included on the list of 25 primates across the world on the brink of extinction.

The four primates are the Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii), Siau tarsius (Tarsius tumpara), the Javan slow loris (Nycticebus javanicus) and Simakubo or pig-tailed langur (Simias concolor).

ProFauna Indonesia chairman Rosek Nursahid said that the International Union for Conservation of Nature had been warning of the matter from as far back as 2000, but there had been no serious response from the government to protect the animals.

Read the rest at the JAKARTA POST

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Brantas River at risk of drying up as deforestation takes its toll


The condition of the Brantas River in East Java is under serious threat of drying up, officials warn, with 54 of its 111 watershed areas damaged or destroyed, mostly due to deforestation.

East Java Governor Soekarwo recently called on all concerned parties, including state-owned water operator Jasa Tirta and state-owned forestry company Perhutani, to reforest the damaged areas, protect the current water sources and create new ones.

He also proposed that both state enterprises set aside their dividends to purchase 100 hectares of highlands in Sumber Brantas village, Bumiaji district, Batu municipality, for reforestation.

“We’re ready to help pay for the lease of a plane to spread acacia seedlings over the area to accelerate the reforestation drive,” Soekarwo said.

He added the provincial administration was committed to protecting the water sources of the Brantas River, which is heavily depended on by people living in the 14 regencies and municipalities through which the river flows.

Data from the East Java Environmental Agency shows much of the river’s watersheds are in critical condition; 925 hectares of these affected areas are located in forests, and 1,899 hectares are outside forests.

The damaged areas, as a result of illegal logging, have caused half the number of water sources feeding into the river to dry up.

Of the remaining water sources, only a few still flow, but at depths of only 20 centimeters, from the usual 1.2 meters.

Soekarwo said the extent of deforested areas had severely silted up the Sutami reservoir in Karangkates, and would affect irrigation and clean water supplies.

“We can’t dredge the reservoir before reforesting the areas,” he said.

Several agencies, the governor went on, had taken steps to deal with the threat. The East Java Public Works Office has repaired the irrigation networks and pumps, while the provincial administration is educating farmers on water management for more efficient farming.

The agriculture office has set aside Rp 650 million (US$62,500) to provide 25 kilograms of rice seedlings per hectare to each farmer facing the threat of crop failure.

An estimated 60 percent of East Java’s population live in areas that form part of the Brantas River basin. The river flows from Batu city, through Malang city, then the regencies of Malang, Blitar, Tulungagung and Trenggalek, Kediri city, Sidoarjo and Gresik regencies, before finally reaching the sea in Surabaya.

The municipal tap water operator in Surabaya gets 95 percent of its raw water supply from the Brantas River.

Ecological Research and Wetland Conservation Agency (Ecoton) director Prigi Arisandi warns the disappearing water sources in the upstream areas of the Brantas River are not just caused by rampant logging, but also large-scale exploitation by bottled water companies in several upstream areas, such as Batu, Trawas in Mojokerto, and Pandaan in Pasuruan.

“The government has no issued any regulations for this industry,” he said.

“As a result, what they pay to government is not commensurate with what they take from nature.

“They only pay Rp 10,000 for 6,000 liters of water, a cut of which is still demanded by village and district officials.”

Prigi agreed with Soekarwo’s proposal that the private sector should set aside part of its profits, or corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds, to purchase land in upstream areas that could be conserved and reforested

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Indonesia slash-and-burn deforestation may trigger ‘climate bomb,’ Greenpeace says

Associated Press

SINGAPORE: Industry-driven deforestation in Indonesia could “detonate a climate bomb” if not brought under control, the environmental group Greenpeace said Thursday.

A report by Greenpeace, launched in Singapore, said the burning of Indonesia’s rainforests and peatlands to build palm oil plantations releases massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Every year 1.8 billion tons of emissions are released by the practice, accounting for 4 percent of global emissions.

“Trade in palm oil by some of the world’s food giants and commodity traders is helping to detonate a climate bomb in Indonesia’s rainforests and peatlands,” the report said. “Efforts to prevent dangerous climate change will not succeed unless this and other industries driving forest destruction are brought under control.”

The report honed in on the Indonesian province of Sumatra, home to a quarter of the country’s oil palm plantations. Some 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) of forest are set to be slashed and burned over the next decade.

The burning of Sumatra’s peatlands — which store 14.6 billion tons of carbon — would result in the release of greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to a year’s total around the globe, Greenpeace said.

The group named consumer products makers Unilever NV and Nestle, and U.S. commodity trading giant Cargill as among many large corporations that are fueling demand for palm oil from deforested land in Indonesia.

Unilever spokesman Nick Goddard in Australia said his company was involved in international efforts to “ensure that sustainable palm oil can be made available, and that no high-value conservation forests are destroyed for palm oil plantations.”

Calls to Nestle in Japan and Cargill’s offices in Asia rang unanswered Thursday.

Indonesia is the biggest global emitter of greenhouse gas emissions through deforestation, putting it third behind the United States and China in terms of total man-made emissions, the report said.

Palm oil is a primary ingredient in food and cosmetics, and in recent years its derivatives have caught on as a source of renewable energy, spurred by subsidies in many European Union countries.

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