PEKANBARU (EoF News)— At least 150 residents of Teluk Meranti village along with NGO activists and informal leaders flocked to Pelalawan District Office and Local Legislative Council (DPRD) compound in Pangkalan Kerinci town Tuesday to protest pulpwood plantation operation by APRIL in Kampar Peninsula forest block, Riau Province.
Tribunnews.com reported Wednesday that the community from Teluk Meranti village filed their complaints to the Pelalawan District Government and Legislative Council and urged them to stop natural forest clearance and revoke license of PT Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP), a subsidiary of Asian Pacific Resources International Holding Limited (APRIL), a pulp and paper giant.
The community had submitted a formal petition last week to the company rejecting agreement of PT RAPP and Team 40, a community representative forum, as they believed the villagers were not involved in determining decision for the partnership. The petition was signed by 429 residents of Teluk Meranti, Tribunnews reported.
Jasri Abas, a member of Team 40, rejected the agreement and said that the points of the accord had harmed the community and eliminated the villagers’ rights over the ownership of forest in Kampar Peninsula where PT RAPP obtained license from the government.
The villagers, failed to meet Pelalawan District Head Rustam Effendi who attended a funeral in Langgam village.
“The land inside the Cultivated Plantation for Life is not belong to the community individually due to the land is not an enclave from the company’s concession,” said Jasri Abas. “Whereas the land has been owned by individuals in the community.”
The community helped by NGOs proposed the government to upgrade 5,000 hectares of forest near Teluk Meranti for Community Forest in 2009, but the Ministry of Forestry issued new license for APRIL’s PT RAPP in the area.
Some NGOs accompanied the community such as Jikalahari, Walhi Riau, Greenpeace and Riau Peatland Community Network (JMGR).
Johny Setiawan Mundung, secretary general of JMGR, said that the rejection by the community through a formal petition had shown that PT RAPP breached FPIC (Free Prior Informet and Consent) principles that adopted by the APRIL’s subsidiary.
APRIL protested in Meranti District
Not only in Pelalawan, in Meranti District, APRIL affiliated companies were also protested by local residents.
Hundreds of residents from two islands in Meranti District, namely Pulau Padang and Pulau Rangsang, flocked to compound of DPRD Meranti in Selat Panjang on 19 August to reject the pulpwood plantation operation by PT Sumatera Riang Lestari and PT Lestari Unggul Makmur, two pulpwood supplier and affiliated companies to APRIL.
“We demand operation by three pulpwood plantation companies in Meranti to be halted from now on,” said M. Ridwan at the rally last week (19 August 2010). The protesters who came from Pulau Padang and Pulau Rangsang also urged the DPRD councilors to help free eight residents of Tanjung Kedabu that detained by Bengkalis police following a protest action last month, Riau Pos daily reported (20 August).
Tofikurrahman, deputy speaker of DPRD Meranti, told the protesters that his organization would recommend the Ministry of Forestry to revoke the licenses of pulpwood plantation that held by PT SRL and PT LUM, two companies affiliated to APRIL.
Walhi Riau had published a report on PT SRL operation in Pulau Rangsang, an outer important island, as the natural forest clearance could damage peat forest and threaten the island to sink.
While, EoF had published PT LUM that plan to clearcut forest in Tebing Tinggi island where locals had planted sago palm plantation for many years. EoF will also publish a report on PT LUM operation in Pulau Padang.
APRIL obtained licenses from the Ministry of Forestry to clear natural forest in several islands which are peatlands and inhabited by locals. The pulpwood plantation operation incited some social conflicts with communities.