In a bizarre turn of events usually seen in a John le Carré novel, the executive director of Greenpeace UK has been refused entry into Indonesia. Arriving at Jakarta's international airport earlier today, John Sauven was blocked from entering the country by immigration officials and is being deported, despite obtaining a business visa without any problems. What on earth's going on?
He travelled to Indonesia to discuss plans with the campaign team in Jakarta, to visit Sumatra, and to take part in discussions with various officials and Indonesian companies.
Shortly after John was issued with a visa in London two weeks ago, stories appeared in the Indonesian media claiming that John had been refused a visa and that he had already been turned away from Indonesia when he tried to enter the country for a forestry conference.
This was a little odd, given that he hadn't set foot outside the UK at that time, hadn’t planned to attend the conference, and had already been given his visa for today’s trip. Clearly there are some influential forces behind these false claims.
We've been given no official explanation why John was refused entry, but it's the latest in a series of challenges to our Indonesian team, at the same time that we’ve increased our campaign pressure against the notorious pulp and paper company Asia Pulp and Paper.
Over the past few months, there have been a number of attempts to undermine our work in Indonesia to halt the country's spiralling deforestation rates. Accusations have made about the legal status of our Indonesian office and the source of its funding, none of which hold any water, while small demonstrations have also been organised outside our office in Jakarta. It has been challenging for Greenpeace staff and volunteers there to say the least.
From the nature of the timing, there's a lot to suggest that this is an orchestrated campaign driven by the various interests that don’t want to change their destructive business practices. And if those interests have to go the lengths of barring legitimate entry into Indonesia for one person and planting false claims in the media, it shows they are getting very worried about the impact our campaign to stop deforestation in Indonesia is having.