Leader of Woro clan, Awyu people, files lawsuit concerning palm oil company PT IAL permits

Hendrikus ‘Franky’ Woro, an environmental defender from the Awyu tribe, accompanied by the Papua Legal Aid Institute (LBH) filed a lawsuit at the Jayapura State Administrative Court (PTUN) concerning an environmental permit issued for palm oil company PT Indo Asiana Lestari (PT IAL) by the Papuan Investment and One-Stop Integrated Service Office (DPMPTSP). Hendrikus Woro is the leader of the Woro clan, part of the Awyu tribe. The Woro clan lives in Yare village, Fofi district, Boven Digoel district.

The lawsuit was filed at the Jayapura State Administrative Court (see photo, credit Gusti Tanati/ Greenpeace) because the local government allegedly withheld information about PT IAL’s licences, whose concessions would annex their customary territory. “As customary landowners, we were not informed about the company’s planned activities. We were also not involved during the preparation of the environmental impact assessment (EIA),” said Franky.

The Awyu tribe community, especially the Woro clan, whose territory is now threatened by oil palm plantation investment, came to the State Administrative Court to file a lawsuit against the permit obtained by TP IAL to be revoked immediately so that the Awyu tribe community can live safely and peacefully. “The impacts that will arise are mainly water pollution because water is a source of life for us indigenous people. Secondly, the environmental impact that will occur is that people who live depend on the nature where we live, when the forest is evicted our lives will be threatened because so far we have depended on living from the existing nature, so we ask the panel of judges to order the revocation of PT IAL’s environmental feasibility permit,” he said.

“The Awyu people are worried that the operation of oil palm companies will destroy their customary lands and forests, as has happened in other areas in Papua. The area included in PT IAL’s concession is not only a place where the Awyu tribe seeks food, medicine and economic income, but also a habitat for endemic Papuan flora and fauna. For indigenous people, the forest is also a cultural identity and source of knowledge,” said Emanuel Gobay, from LBH. He hopes that the lawsuit will be granted so that it can revoke other permits granted to investors (companies), especially PT IAL, which are clearly detrimental to customary territory owners.

“There are already a number of examples of the loss of customary forests in Papua because the government granted permits for oil palm plantations and the timber industry. Patterns like this should be stopped, because they will only further marginalise indigenous Papuans. Papua’s forests are also the largest remaining rainforests in Indonesia,” said Gobay, a lawyer from LBH and also from the Solidarity Movement to Save Papua’s Customary Forests.

It is known that the Greenpeace report from 2021 “Stop Baku Tipu: The Dark Side of Licensing in Papua” noted that since 2017, PT IAL has obtained a location permit for an oil palm plantation covering 39,190 hectares.

The company is allegedly controlled by Malaysian company All Asian Agro, which also has oil palm plantations in Sabah under the East-West One company banner. PT IAL obtained the land from PT Energy Samudera Kencana, a subsidiary of Menara Group which was to work on the Tanah Merah project in the Boven Digoel district.

Related case information: https://humanrightsmonitor.org/news/awyu-indigenous-community-sue-papua-dpmptsp-office-over-right-to-information-about-palm-oil-companys-permit/

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