Fidelis E. Satriastanti
An aide to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has expressed concern over a recent court ruling that cleared the outgoing Aceh governor’s action in granting a plantation concession in an ostensibly protected forest.
“That plantation is inside the protected forest. It’s strange that they can get a permit. I suspect something behind the issue of the permit,” Kuntoro Mangkusubroto said on Wednesday of the ruling in favor of Irwandi Yusuf.
Kuntoro, who is also head of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) forest carbon reduction task force, said he had asked the National Land Agency (BPN), to give him the map of the area to check for violations.
A coalition of environmental groups, including the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) and Greenpeace Indonesia, filed suit against Irwandi for issuing the permit to palm oil company Kallista Alam last August that included 1,605 hectares of land inside the Tripa peat swamp forest.
The forest was initially included in the government’s map of areas off-limits to forestry activities, published in May 2011, as part of a two-year moratorium on new forestry concessions in peat and primary forests.
However, a revised map issued in November dropped the Tripa forest from the protected zone. The plaintiffs in the suit argued that when Irwandi issued the permit in August, the revised map had not yet been published, hence the area was still protected and the issuance was illegal.
Earlier this month, however, the Banda Aceh State Administrative Court dismissed the lawsuit on a technicality, claiming that it was “not authorized to hear the matter.”
Irwandi lost his bid for a new term in Monday’s Aceh election.
Aside from the Tripa case, Kuntoro said government ministries and agencies had done well in keeping the forest untouched under the moratorium.