Aceh Activists Slam Lenient Sentence Demand for Defendant in Land Dispute

Banda Aceh. Environmental activists in Aceh slammed the prosecution for seeking what they view as lenient punishment for the director of a palm oil company who is accused of damaging a natural habitat for orangutans.

Prosecutor Rahmat on Wednesday asked the Meulaboh district court for a sentence of 10 months imprisonment and a Rp 150 million ($13,000) fine for Subianto Rusyid, the director of Kalista Alam, in violation of the 2009 law on environment protection and management.

Rahmat told the court that Subianto was guilty of negligence for failing to control his subordinates who operated on the lush forest and peatland region in the province’s Nagan Raya district without the proper permit.

The 61,803-hectare Rawa Tripa peatland is situated in Leuser ecosystem, and a parcel of 1,605 hectares is the main habitat for orangutan and several other protected wildlife species.

Aceh environmental activists united under the Coalition to Save Rawa Tripa (TKPRT) said the sentence would not be a deterrent for the defendant.

“The prosecutor’s demand is too lenient compared to the environmental damages caused by the land concession in Rawa Tripa,” said Fadila Ibra, spokesman for the coalition, on Thursday.

Fadila said Kalista Alam has also allegedly violated the 2004 law on natural resource conservation for operating in the Leuser ecosystem, which has been declared a conservation area. He said the law would punish violators with five years in prison and a Rp 2 billion fine.

“The judge’s demand is less than half of what the laws stipulate. This will not deter those who have destroyed the environment,” Fadila said.

Kallista Alam obtained the permit to open the plantation in Rawa Trip from then Governor Irwandi Yusuf in August 2011.

The governor’s decision to grant the company a land concession permit was met with protests by environmental activists who said that the area was the habitat of Sumatran orangutans, which are critically endangered, and other rare animals.