Jakarta. Malaysian palm oil giant Sime Darby has been called out by a representative of indigenous communities for land-grabbing in Indonesia's West Kalimantan province during the 14th annual Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil meeting, which is taking place in Bangkok this week.
"We demand that Sime Darby return our land and comply with RSPO criteria 2.2, regarding the rights of indigenous peoples," Bang Redatus Musa, who represents the Kerunang and Entapang communities, said in a statement on Tuesday (08/11).
The communities, indigenous to West Kalimantan's Sangau district, have complained that the Malaysian company has trespassed on their land and turned it into a plasma plantation.
Bang also said the RSPO's complaint mechanism has been inefficient, as the matter against Sime Darby was filed in 2012, and still has not been concluded. According to community rights group TuK Indonesia, Sime Darby, through its West Kalimantan subsidiary Mitral Austral Sejahtera (MAS), has been operating on indigenous lands since 1995, without free, prior and informed consent.
In 1995, MAS approached the Dayak Mayau, Ribun and Tingin communities and reached an agreement to lease their land until 2022, in exchange for a one-time payment of Rp 50,000 ($3.80) per hectare.
Despite having no formal contract with the communities, MAS obtained a right of cultivation permit, or HGU, and a contract valid until 2030.
The Kerunang and Entapang communities, whose land was also under the contract, were not aware of it, nor of the HGU issued for MAS.
Sime Darby came into the picture when it took over MAS in 2007, leaving the communities questioning its pact on sustainability and respect for local land rights.
The communities demand that the RSPO solve the issue within a year and Sime Darby publish the documents that prove its right to the lands it cultivates.
Sime Darby told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday that it is ready to engage with the communities, but that at the end of the day, it all boils down to the government's decision.
"We are unable to accede to their demands at this point, as it would be against the terms of the contract with the government of Indonesia," Sime Darby said in a statement.
The company said most conflicts with local communities have already been resolved.
"As of the end of July 2015, agreements were reached in 12 [of 14] claims filed by communities, except for the Kerunang and Entapang groups," Sime Darby added.
MAS is Sime Darby's last mill not certified by the RSPO and will remain a grey zone in terms of sustainability certification until all conflicts are resolved.