The palm oil companies PT Inti Kebun Lestari (PT IKL), PT Sorong Agro Sawitindo (PT SAS), dan PT Papua Lestari Abadi (PT PLA) filed a lawsuit against the regent of Sorong, Mr Johny Kamuru, in September 2021. The trials are taking place at the administrative court in Jayapura (PTUN Jayapura). On 7 December 2021, the judges rejected the plaintiff’s claim and ruled that the withdrawal of PT SAS and PT PLA’s location, business and plantation permits was legal. The lawsuit by PT IKL is processed in a separate trial which is still ongoing at the PTUN Jayapura. Mr Kamuru and his lawyer announced the verdict during a press conference (see photo, source: Jubi).
On 6 December 2021, fifty-three civil society organisations organised a peaceful protest in front of the local parliament in Sorong. The organisations voiced their opposition towards the palm oil companies. They called upon the judges at the PTUN Jayapura to rule in favour of the regent and the indigenous Moi peoples. The crowd stayed overnight in front of the parliament building until the verdict was announced.
During a court session on 30 November 2021, the Head of Sorong Regency Land Office explained that PT Inti Kebun Lestari had never submitted an application for land rights in their concession location. Two indigenous land rights holders confirmed that they had learnt about the company’s plantation and business permit only after the Sorong regent withdrew its permits.
Previously, a coalition of seven environmental NGOs submitted an amicus curiae letter to the PTUN, calling upon the judges to consider the greater outcome of the trial. The verdict will not only affect the disputing parties but will also be of a larger public interest. The loss of customary lands to the companies will threaten thousands of hectares of forest and affect the lives of thousands of indigenous land rights holders.
The land area of approximately 105 thousand hectares will be returned to the indigenous land rights holders and the government if the companies won’t appeal against the verdict.
Together with the Commission for the Eradication of Corruption (KPK), local government agencies had reviewed 24 palm oil companies holding a total concession area of 578,000 hectares in the Papua Barat Province. The review found that only eleven of the companies were actively operating. The assessment also revealed that more than 2,224 hectares of land were outside the concession areas.
In April 2021, the regent of Sorong withdrew the companies’ concessions due to allegations of unfair business practices and breaches of cultivation license regulations (KGU) in their concession areas. The land was handed back to the indigenous Moi community.