Bangkok – Human Rights violations by one of the world's biggest palm oil suppliers, Wilmar International, and its subsidiaries and suppliers in West Sumatra have been revealed in a new report, released today.
Two Indonesian NGOs attending the RSPO Roundtable (RT) released a report, based on field research over the last two years, summarising complaints made by fifty communities negatively affected by Wilmar's oil palm operations and its suppliers. All communities reported loss of access and control of their customary lands which were taken over by the companies without their consent. Many communities also reported suffering intimidation and criminalisation after raising concerns and complaints with the companies affecting them.
"Wilmar International and the RSPO have failed to address these systemic problems. A year ago they promised to conduct a joint risk assessment but despite regularly urging them to turn commitment into action, no assessment has taken place," said Zulkifli, director of the Nagari Institute.
"We are therefore releasing this interim report which compiles community concerns. The report does not contain the names of affected communities due to fears that this may lead to further intimidation and criminalisation."
Patrick Anderson from Forest Peoples Programme, also attending the RT in Bangkok, said "we urge the RSPO and Wilmar International to honour their commitment made at the 2018 RSPO RT in Kota Kinabalu to conduct an assessment into these problems and to work together to address the community reports that together indicate systemic human rights abuses."
Background to the report:
Since 2005, Forest Peoples Programme and its local NGO partners have been documenting the situation for communities in West Sumatra affected by Wilmar oil palm operations. In 2014, FPP assisted the West Sumatra community of Nagari Kapa to file a formal complaint with the RSPO about the takeover of their customary lands without consent by Wilmar International subsidiary PT PHP1. In 2017, the RSPO ruled that the community lands were taken without consent in a licensing process that was not legal.
In early 2018, FPP and the Nagari Institute assisted the West Sumatra community of Nagari Koto Baru to file a formal complaint with the RSPO about the take-over of their lands by Wilmar subsidiary, PT PMJ. Now, almost two years later, the RSPO is yet to make a decision on this complaint.
The leadership of both communities suffered intense intimidation and criminalisation following their decision to make complaints to the RSPO. FPP filed complaints with the RSPO about this criminalisation in early 2015 and again in mid-2018. Despite frequent requests, no one from FPP or the affected leaders has been interviewed by the RSPO since these complaints were made. Meanwhile, the criminalisation of the leaders from the two communities continues.
At the RSPO RT in Kota Kinabalu in November 2018, FPP held a meeting with Wilmar International and the RSPO Investigation Monitoring Unit (IMU) to inform them about reports alleging widespread human rights violations affecting dozens of communities perpetrated by Wilmar subsidiaries and suppliers in West Sumatra. FPP requested that together, the three parties review the situation and come up with a plan to address the systemic problems facing the communities. Wilmar agreed to cooperate in a risk assessment and in early 2019 the IMU drafted the Terms of Reference for the assessment which would be carried out by its staff. Since March 2019, however, Wilmar has failed to honour its commitment to work with the RSPO and FPP to investigate the situation in West Sumatra. Recently, the IMU stated that it will not conduct the risk assessment because Wilmar is no longer willing to participate in a joint approach to investigating the systemic problems facing communities in West Sumatra despite its public commitment to addressing human rights violations in its supply chain.
FPP is sharing the Interim Report produced by its local NGO partners, Nagari Institute and YMKL, so that everyone can be informed of the situation facing communities in West Sumatra whose lands have been taken over by Wilmar and its suppliers.