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Indonesia village leaders challenge validity of Rainforest Action Network report on APP, claims “not true”

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Indonesia village leaders challenge validity of Rainforest Action Network report on APP, claims “not true”

May 31, 2011 - 18:06
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RIAU PROVINCE, Indonesia, June 1, 2011 (Business Wire) -"It is not true" is the message from Pak Maharun Ibrahim to the US-based NGO Rainforest Action Network (RAN) after seeing the new RAN report "Corruption, Land Conflict and Forest Destruction."

The report, posted to www.ran.org on May 17, 2011, is positioned as a case study on community land rights in Indonesia. It claims to tell the story of the Dusun Gembira community in Riau Province, Sumatra through the eyes and voice of one its prominent residents, Pak Maharun. It raises allegations against Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and its pulpwood supplier PT. Bina Duta Laksana (BDL) for allegedly infringing on community rights and unsubstantiated illegal development activities.

Dusun Gembira, located in the heart of Riau Province in Sumatra, which is the largest island entirely in Indonesia, is a good representative case study of the challenges of community development in rural Indonesia. Riau, like most of Sumatra, is dotted with myriad small communities and villages that are home to both indigenous people as well as migrants settling in areas rich in natural resources. These communities historically relied on illegal logging, fishing and agriculture, often slash-and-burn agriculture practice, as the base for their economies. Increased efforts by the government to eliminate illegal logging resulted in a much heavier reliance on fishing and a more sustainable agriculture practice. In the case of Dusun Gembira, coconut trees served as the staple crop. But like many other communities, the lack of advanced technology and know-how to support a modern agricultural economy remained to be a challenge.

BDL and other companies in the forestry industry play a central role in helping communities like Dusun Gembira revitalize their economies to help prevent the need, and devastating effects, a return to illegal logging would have on natural forests. Companies are encouraged to partner with local communities, authorities and NGOs to help create sustainable economic opportunities, improve social programs emphasizing education and healthcare, and invest in improving infrastructure. Despite efforts to create these partnerships, sometimes conflicts do arise, as was the case with Dusun Gembira. As Pak Maharun describes in his video interview, working through those conflicts has resulted in a positive partnership with BDL that is making a difference for families in the community.

After reading the report, APP sent an investigative team to meet with BDL management, Pak Maharun and other Dusun Gembira community leaders. This video represents Pak Maharun direct response to the validity of the report and his participation in the research. In the video Pak Maharun states he did not speak with anyone from RAN nor did he speak with any international NGO after 2008 that could have written this report. The report, he says, does not accurately reflect Dusun Gembira and its relationship with BDL.

Dusun Gembira, formed in the 1970s, is a community of approximately 800 families located in 12 neighborhoods among approximately 7,500 hectares of the Indragiri Hilir District of Riau Province, Sumatra.

PT. Bina Duta Laksana (BDL) was granted a land concession by Indonesia Ministry of Forestry Decree No SK.207/MENHUT-II/2006 on 8 Juni 2006. The concession consists of 28,890 hectares located 15 kilometers from the permanently protected Kerumutan conservation area. BDL employs 300 people in its nursery, plantation and operations and partners with Dusun Gembira and four other local communities to support three co-operative community businesses.