Former MK Chief Justice Supports RAPP's Legal Action Against Environment Ministry

BY :DAMES ALEXANDER SINAGA AND ADINDA PUTRI

DECEMBER 08, 2017

Jakarta. Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper, the operational unit of global pulp and paper industry leader Asia Pacific Resources International, has taken legal action to seek the revocation of a letter of reprimand issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, which invalidated the company's current 10-year business plan.

The company submitted a plea to the State Administrative Court (PTUN) in Jakarta on Nov. 16 against the reprimand letter, which was issued in October.

"Repealing the company's business plan is the same as killing the company," Hamdan Zoelva, RAPP's legal representative, told the Jakarta Globe after a trial session on Thursday (07/12).

On Thursday, RAPP presented three expert witnesses: former Constitutional Court (MK) judge Maruarar Siahaan, University of Indonesia lecturer Dian Puji Simatupang and Pelita Harapan University lecturer Lintong Oloan Siahaan.

RAPP argued that one of the articles in Government Regulation No. 71 of 2014 states that business permits issued before the regulation became effective will remain valid until the company's license expires.

"The ministry should respect the [2014] regulation. We will revise the plan in the next two years – the government should not repeal it halfway," said Hamdan, who is a former MK chief justice.

RAPP said it had sent a letter of objection to the government reprimand on Oct. 18, and claims that the ministry failed to respond to it within 10 days, as required by the regulation.

This prompted the company to accuse the ministry of not obeying the Law on Good Governance.

"[According to the law,] the government has to respond within 10 days to every plea or objection filed by the public," Dian said.

RAPP also presented Nursal Tanjung, the head of the Riau Workers Union, and the company's local partners, Sokhi Atulo Laia and Abumansur Matridi, as factual witnesses during Thursdays' session.

Ministry's Rebuttal

Although the Environment and Forestry Ministry has not replied to RAPP's objection letter, the ministry's secretary general, Bambang Hendroyono, said it has consulted with and advised the company to adjust its current work plan to comply with the government's new peatland protection framework, as detailed in Ministerial Decree No. 17 of 2017, which provides technical detail related to the implementation of Government Regulation No. 57 of 2016.

Bambang said the company has been proactive in consultations with the ministry, but it still refuses to obey regulations, particularly those aimed at protecting peatlands in concession areas.

"As you can see, we've already launched a series of concrete actions to respond to their letter of objection," Bambang told reporters after Thursday's trial session.

He said the letter demands that the ministry allow the company to adhere to its current work plan without the need to comply with the new regulation on peatland protection.

"We cannot let that happen. Not if the company does not want to protect peatlands in its concession areas," he stressed.

Bambang said the ministry is more than confident that it can defend itself against RAPP's lawsuit.

The trial has been adjourned until Monday, when the ministry plans to present four expert witnesses and two factual witnesses to rebut RAPP's claims.

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