Greenpeace calls on Indonesian government to arrest forest destroyers instead of harassing climate defenders

Feature story - November 20, 2009
Greenpeace today marched to the Indonesian Embassy to call on its government to carry the full extent of environmental law on companies that are destroying the carbon-rich peatlands of Indonesia’s Kampar Peninsula in Sumatra. The group, rallying behind a banner that said “stop forest destroyers, not climate defenders”, delivered a letter addressed to Ambassador Irzan Tandjung.

Greenpeace today marched to the Indonesian Embassy to call on its government to fully shut down operations of paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International Holding Limited (APRIL) and other companies destroying the carbon-rich peatlands of Indonesia’s Kampar Peninsula in Sumatra. The group, rallying behind a banner that said “stop forest destroyers, not climate defenders”, delivered a letter addressed to Ambassador Irzan Tandjung. Greenpeace is denouncing the unfounded arrest, interrogation and deportation of journalists and Greenpeace activists trying to bring attention to the forest crimes being committed by APRIL.

Indonesia's Forest Minister, Mr. Zulfikli Hasan, had announced yesterday the temporary suspension of operations of paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International Holding Limited (APRIL) pending a review of the company's permits. Although Greenpeace welcomed the announcement, the environmental advocacy organization is still crying foul over the intimidation tactics that were employed by Indonesian authorities against members of the press as well as against Greenpeace activists and local community members who were merely supporting efforts to bring attention to destructive business operations like APRIL's.

A Greenpeace protest was carried out on November 12 to prevent APRIL from further destroying the forest and peatland in the area in order to grow acacia plantations for the pulp and paper it supplies to the global market. Containing 2 billion tonnes of carbon, the endangered Kampar Peninsula is one of the planet's largest natural carbon stores.(1)  It is under threat of destruction by APRIL and by Asia Pulp & Paper (APP).(2)

"It is good that the Indonesian authorities are finally giving the climate some breathing space by suspending the company's licence to destroy the forest. Deforestation is one of the roots of the clmate crisis. We will only avert this crisis if President Yudhoyono and other world leaders permanently stop all companies like APRIL and APP from destroying the planet's forests," said Shailendra Yashwant, campaign director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Greenpeace set up a 'Climate Defenders Camp' on the Kampar Peninsula over three weeks ago to bring urgent attention to the role that rainforest and peatland destruction play in driving dangerous climate change in the run-up to the critical UN Copenhagen Climate Summit this December. Over the last week, 13 international Greenpeace activists, including from the Philippines, have been deported from Indonesia -- even though they all held valid business visas. Two independent journalists have also been detained, questioned and subsequently deported, whilst holding valid permits and visas. This has prompted criticism and condemnation from parliamentarians, civil society and journalist associations both nationally and internationally.

"We hope the Indonesian authorities stop intimidating peaceful protestors who are trying to help President Yudhoyono fulfill the commitment he has made to cut Indonesia's massive CO2 emissions," said Roda Angeles of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. Angeles, a Filipina, was among those who were bearing witness to APRIL's destruction of Indonesian rainforest, but were arrested, interrogated, and deported under very dubious interpretations of customs laws.

Speaking at the Indonesian Embassy in Makati City, Metro Manila, Angeles criticized the Indonesian authorities for handling the situation very unfairly. "Why arrest and overnight interrogate journalists and concerned citizens just for watching forest destruction and trying to call world attention on an environmental crime? What about the real culprits at the scene? Are they protecting these forest destroyers? I just hope we see something more than just a temporary suspension. Our lives - and those of our children -- literally depend on it."

Deforestation causes about a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. (3) Every month, over a million hectares of forest, mostly tropical rainforest, are destroyed - equivalent to an area the size of a football pitch for every two seconds. Rainforest and peatland destruction in Indonesia emits such huge quantities of CO2 that is has driven the country to become the world's third largest climate polluter after China and the US. (4)

Greenpeace is calling for an end to deforestation globally by 2020 as a key part of the UN climate deal this December.

Greenpeace is an independent, global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment, and to promote peace.

Notes to editors: (1) Greenpeace calculation based on Wahyunto, S. Ritung dan H. Subagjo (2003). Maps of Area of Peatland Distribution and Carbon Content in Sumatera, 1990 - 2002. Wetlands International - Indonesia Programme & Wildlife Habitat Canada (WHC). (2) Combined, APRIL and APP control 73% of Indonesia's total pulp capacity and own two of the world's largest pulp mills (3) WRI 2008. Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT) Version 6.0 (Washington, DC: World Resources Institute) http://cait.wri.org (4) Greenpeace estimates that ending global deforestation requires industrialised countries to invest $42 billion (€30 billion) annually in forest protection.

Take action!

Tell the Indonesian government to crackdown on deforestation - not on Climate Defenders!

Support us!

It is thanks to people like you - that we are able to set up a camp and take action at the frontline of forest destruction. You can help make a difference tomorrow by giving whatever you can today.

Categories