Location of PT Nabire Baru.
The company at the heart of a controversial palm oil
development in Papua claimed that the provincial and district governments
encouraged it to commit what amounts to a criminal offence because they were
“impatient” to see the project begin.
PT Nabire Baru, a subsidiary of Goodhope Asia Holdings,
began operating in 2011 without an approved Environmental Impact Assessment,
known by its Indonesian acronym AMDAL. Failure to comply with this legal
requirement attracts criminal sanctions, including jail time and substantial
written response to a range of allegations Goodhope admitted that it
had begun land clearing before the AMDAL was approved, but claimed it was pressured
by the government to do so and that it had “no option but to commence its operations
at minimum levels to satisfy the demands from the government and community”.
Goodhope explains that the government officials were at pains to get the development moving because it was “the only means for social development in the area due to the lack of any other viable socio-economic potentials [sic]”.
This contrasts with the view presented by NGOs who raised
the grievance against the company, who have argued that the company destroyed
communities’ sago palms, thereby harming their food security.
Goodhope also wrote that the government agencies were
“mutually in agreement” that the decision was “not in line with the legal
requirements in Indonesia”. But it was “deemed as not violating the law as the
government exercised its discretion” to issue permits.
Goodhope’s explanation for its violation of the Environmental Act was included in a series of lengthy documents made public on 2 December 2016, responding to complaints lodged against the company with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
On 1 December 2016 Earthsight published a post on
the inability of the RSPO to grapple properly with violations of the law, which
highlighted the apparent inaction over PT Nabire Baru.
Last month a coalition of NGOs carried out an extensive and scathing analysis of the assessments carried out on behalf of PT Nabire Baru that were intended to demonstrate its compliance with the RSPO standard.
The NGOs found, among other things, that High
Conservation Value (HCV) assessments were “of poor quality or deliberately
The NGO assessment also argued that Goodhope’s operations
amounted to “laundering illegally developed land into the certification
On 28 April the RSPO imposed a “stop work order” on
seven of Goodhope’s plantations. The RSPO Complaints Panel concurred that the
HCV assessments were inadequate and needed to be re-done. However it made no
comment on the legal issues.