The good intentions of a new political party, the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) to defend the weakening rupiah and efforts to boost state revenues has unfortunately stumbled on the choice of subject to illustrate it – palm oil – a commodity and industry that has remained sensitive for many.
In a brief video carrying the title of “The Stronger Dollar Makes Gadgets Expensive? A Solution exists,” uploaded in the social media, the fledgling party aired its support for the palm oil industry which it said, is a major contributor to the economy and is helping to stabilize the rupiah through exports.
In the 46 second video uploaded on the PSI Facebook account on September 13, PSI said that palm oil was the solution to make the prices of gadget affordable.
“That is the way, support exports of our commodities, especially palm oil. Palm oil exports contribute to foreign exchange, we hope that the palm oil industry is facilitated so that palm oil exports can increase more rapidly. So that we can remain calm and there is no need to panic because of the strengthening of the dollar,” someone is heard as saying in the video.
The video and its statements immediately triggered reactions from various sides, including from environmental watchdog, WALHI which fiercely labeled PSI as having touted an economic model which was already “ancient” and” brittle.”
In its long comment, WALHI accused PSI of misleading the public, especially the youth, by blurring facts on the gloom surrounding palm oil plantation and its industry. It also said that PSI executives had failed to have a basic understanding of the problems of palm oil in Indonesia and even in a global context.
A clarification from the executives of the party that PSI only backed “White Palm Oil” and was against “Black Palm Oil,” was also immediately dismissed by WALHI which said there was no such a thing as “white palm oil”, or sustainable palm oil.
Regardless of the substance of the exchange, the use of palm oil as a tool to reach a goal is clearly a reckless act.
Palm oil and its industry have long been the target of criticism and accusations coming from all corners,and in a continuous manner.
Palm oil and its industry are sensitive topics regardless of the condition and should be clearly handled with care.
Although in general, the attacks against the palm oil industry, accused of being a destroyer of the environment, the culprit behind deforestation and involvement in a number of human rights violations concerning workers and their family as well as those of communities around palm oil plantation, come from overseas, from countries with no palm oil cultivation, attacks from non-governmental groups in Indonesia are just as virulent.
Talking about palm oil in a serious manner would usually trigger pros and cons. Talking about it lightly, and even more so if linked to a trivial argument, is just stirring up a hornet’s nest.
Taking up the subject of palm oil without first thinking it over seriously, would only trigger heated and emotional debates. This is something that the ranks of young politicians in PSI, and also the public in general, should be aware of.
Palm oil is already a complex subject by itself and it is already facing a lot of problems. There is no need to gratuitously exacerbate it further.