The Papua Commission on Information (KIP) has ruled that the Papua office of the Land Agency (BPN) should open up information on palm oil concessions in Papua to the public, Papua Legal Aid Institute (LBH Papua) Director Simon Pattiradjawane said on Tuesday (10/7).

The verdict, dated May 28, 2018, came following a challenge submitted by LBH Papua to the commission on March 12, 2018, Pattiradjawane told The Palm Scribe by telephone from Papua.

“The verdict concerns the HGU (rights to cultivate/exploit state-owned land) of 31 palm oil plantation companies in Papua,” he said.

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In the verdict, the KIP ordered BPN Papua, in line with the demand made by LBH Papua, to make public information on the HGU held by palm oil companies in Papua, with details of the name of the title holders, the location of the concessions, its total surface, type of commodity as well as an area map of the concessions with coordinates.

Pattiradjawane said that if BPN did not file an appeal, “then the verdict of KIP Papua is already legally binding.”

Melke Mentang, the legal counsel of BPN Papua, could not be immediately contacted for comment but he was quoted by Mongabay as having said that BPN Papua will not appeal. He was also quoted as saying that the institutions will make the information requested public, stressing that not the entire HGU document would be released but only the requested information.

Pattiradjawane said that the Central Commission on Information had already ruled in 2015 that the HGU documents are public documents and the ruling had been upheld by appeal courts both at state administrative court level and at the Supreme Court level.

However, he said that a demand made by LBH Papua to make the HGU documents of the palm oil plantation public was rejected by BPN Papua and therefore the challenge was filed to KIP Papua.

“Our request was rejected by ATR/BPN which argued that the document was secret in nature and was an information that is exempted from being made public,” Pattiradjawane said.

He said that the secrecy surrounding the HGU documents and the inability of the public to access the information on these documents have often lead to land conflicts between palm oil companies and the local communities.

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