The Palm Scribe

Indonesian NGOs Calls on Legislative to drop Palm Oil Draft Bill

Photo: AFP

An alliance of a number of Indonesian Non-Governmental Organizations is calling on the National Legislative Council (DPR) to drop a planned draft bill on the oil palm sector which they say was heavy with corporate interests, would weaken existing legislation on the subject, and only add more problems rather than solving it.

A coalition of civil societies which gathers 11 non-governmental organizations including in environment, labor and social rights said in a report of their monitoring on the chronology of the debates on the draft bill at the national legislative council (DPR) released last week, that it rejected the planned bill.

“Requesting that the DPR to not apply the carry-over system and halt deliberation in the Draft Bill on the Oil Palm Sector and take it off from the national legislation program because it only adds to a number of polemics,” Muhammad Busyro Fuad from the Institute for Public Study and Advocacy (Elsam) told journalists at the presentation of the coalition’s monitoring result.

Fuad said that the DPR decided in 2016 to put a draft law on palm oil into its list of planned legislation target and was tabled by two main political parties – the Golongan Karya (Golkar) and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP).

“Based on the ongoing discussions on the draft bill on palm oil, at the normative level, still at the planning stage,” Fuad said, adding that the draft was still in the hand of the legislative board and no public consultation had yet been made.

He also pointed out that the current legislative membership would end their tenure in October and with the ongoing recess periods, the lawmakers would only have about one and a half month left to actually pass the draft, something which he said appeared virtually impossible considering the state of the draft bill was still at.

Other highlighted area is the process of deliberation that was not participatory in nature would only lead to a draft bill that was incomplete and therefore, would lead to a negative contribution in the management of the country’s palm oil sector. Those who were heard by the legislative council so far were only a “handful of players from the palm oil industry which shared the same view with them”.

“Meanwhile, oil palm labor or farmer unions, independent smallholders and those vulnerable groups which live near oil palm plantation and institutions that advocate and research plasma scheme farmers, are not being involved in the discussion on the draft bill on palm oil,” Fuad said.

According to Andi Muttaqien, Elsam’s Deputy Director of Advocacy, the government’s stance has so far been to not support the deliberation of the draft bill, pointing out that in practice, there should be a designated a representative to join the deliberation of the draft bill.

”This draft bill really facilitates the expansion of plantations, facilitates the appropriation of land for expansion, and encourages plantation practices that actually cause conflicts. We see this draft bill as really in favor of investment and land appropriation,” Andi said.

Agung Ady Setiawan a campaigner for Forest Watch Indonesia said that most of the topics covered by the draft bill were actually already contained in other regulations, He said “There is a log of copy-paste from other existing regulations,” adding that 13 of the 17 chapters in the draft bill were matters already contained in a number of other laws and regulations. This, he said, lead to overlapping between laws and regulation and could even undermine lower regulations.

Setiawan said, rather than coming out with a new bill, it would be better to just ensure the implementation of existing laws and regulations, including by issuing executing regulations.

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