Administrative court rules against palm oil companies in Sorong

In September 2021, the palm oil companies PT Inti Kebun Lestari (PT IKL), PT Sorong Agro Sawitindo (PT SAS), and PT Papua Lestari Abadi (PT PLA) filed a lawsuit against the regent, Mr Johny Kamuru, because the local government in the West Papuan regency Sorong had revoked their operational licenses in April 2021. The trial took place at the administrative court in Jayapura, Papua Province. Based on the evidence presented in court, the judges ruled on 12 January 2022 that the Sorong regent acted in accordance with the law. Following the verdict, the 34,400 hectares of customary land will be returned to the indigenous land rights holders in the districts Salawati, Klamono, and Segun.

An evaluation of the company’s performance in West Papua revealed multiple violations and irregularities. PT IKL failed to arrange a cultivation rights permit (Hak Guna Usaha, HGU) and breached requirements under the company’s mining business license (Izin Usaha Pertambangan, IUP). The indigenous land rights holders say the company’s promise to develop gardens and provide land certificates for the local communities in the project area was never realized.

Previous lawsuits against Sorong regent

In April 2021, the local government revoked the location, business and plantation permits of four palm oil companies (see photo, source: Jubi) in the Sorong regency because a review of the companies’ performance revealed their involvement in unfair business practices and HGU breaches in their concession areas. PT Cipta Papua Plantation is located in the districts Mariat and Sayosa with an area of 15,671 hectares; PT Papua Lestari Abadi (PT PLA) is located in the Segun District with a land area of 15,631 hectares; PT Sorong Agro Sawitindo (PT SAS) in the districts Segun, Klawak and Klamono with a land area of 40,000 hectares; and PT IKL, located in the districts Salawati, Klamono and Segun with a land area of 34,400 hectares.

Three of the four palm oil companies sued the Sorong regent by challenging the lawfulness of the license withdrawals in court. The judges ruled on 7 December 2021 that the revocation of PT PLA’s and PT SAS’s permits was legal because the companies had failed to obtain mandatory permits and reach an agreement with the land rights holders of the indigenous Moi tribe.

Companies sue Sorong Selatan regent

A similar trial, related to the withdrawal of operating licenses of companies in the neighbouring Sorong Selatan Regency, will soon take place. The palm oil companies PT Sakti Anugerah Sakti Internusa (PT ASI) and PT Persada Utama Agromulia (PT PUA), which both lost their licenses in May 2021, filed a lawsuit against the regent of Sorong Selatan, Mr Samsudin Anggiluli. Local indigenous communities in Sorong Selatan have expressed their support for the regent. They reclaim the customary land which had been issued to the two companies. The lawsuit was officially filed to the Jayapura administrative court on 29 December 2021

The revocation of permits in Sorong and Sorong Selatan was part of an Indonesia-wide evaluation process of agricultural, mining and forestry permits across the archipelago. The Government withdrew 2,078 mining business permits, 192 forestry sector permits and 36 HGU licenses. Environmental NGOs have criticized the Government for not taking legal steps against companies which breached the law and caused environmental damage.

Detailed Case Data
name of the location: Sorong Regency
administrative region: Indonesia, Papua Barat Province, Sorong Regency, Salawati District; Indonesia, Papua Barat Province, Sorong Regency, Klamono District; Indonesia, Papua Barat Province, Sorong Regency, Segun District
total number of victims: dozens
period of incident: 01.04.2021-12.01.2022
perpetrator: company
perpetrator details: Palm oil companies: PT Inti Kebun Lestari (PT IKL), PT Sorong Agro Sawitindo (PT SAS), and PT Papua Lestari Abadi (PT PLA) Issues: indigenous peoples, cultural rights, right to adequate housing, food
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NumberName, DetailsGender AgeGroup AffiliationViolations
dozensunknownunknownunknownindigenouscultural rights