The Secretariat of the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) has viewed with grave concern the serious allegations of sexual harassment and assault as reported by the Associated Press and is urging the news agency to work with the authorities to bring the culprits to justice.
“The Secretariat of CPOPC will look into the allegations as a matter of urgency. The Secretariat is appreciative of investigative journalism to highlight issues in the palm oil industry,” The secretariat said in a written statement on Tuesday (24/11.)
The Secretariat will therefore recommend that affected palm oil producing countries to investigate the reported cases. It is important for the governments concerned and other stakeholders of the industry to shed more lights on the allegations.
“The Secretariat understands the extreme sensitivities and the reluctance of victims to report perpetrators and hence expects that the Associated Press will work with the relevant agencies and ministries to bring these perpetrators to face the full force of the law,” it said
However, CPOPC also questioned “the selective” reporting by the Associated Press reporters. The statements from a few unconfirmed interviews were selected as an intentional slur to harm the image of palm oil as a whole.
“Extra caution should be made not to generalize perhaps isolated lamentable incidents into a black campaign against palm oil,” it said.
The CPOPC secretariat stressed that rape was a criminal offense in Indonesia and Malaysia.
“CPOPC member countries as well as all of its stakeholders do not tolerate nor condone any violations of national laws which protect the rights of women to a fair and safe working environment. The palm oil industry is no exception.,” the secretariat said in the statement.
It said that the palm oil industry regarded women in the sector as key to the success of meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).
Palm oil producing countries in the Asia Pacific, Africa and Central and Latin America were committed to develop the industry to attain the Sustainable Development Goals 2030. These include fair pay for work and gender equality which affords women the same opportunities for advancement in the workplace for better livelihoods.
The elimination of sexual discrimination as well as harassment in the workplaces of the palm oil industry is of utmost priority for CPOPC. The industry was committed to a human-centered development by putting the wellbeing, respect and protection of human rights, including rights of workers and women, in its core mission.
“As part of its strong commitment and transparency, the Secretariat will share results of the investigations by the parties concerned on the allegations,” CPOPC said in the statement.
But it also stressed that on the other hand, CPOPC could not accept and would fight smear campaigns, prompted by whatever motives and interests, directed at the palm oil industry.