Police planned to disperse residents of Padang island whom staged rallies and had been staying near House of Representatives’ compound in Jakarta for one month as eight hospitalized and one treated in a mental hospital. Last week, civil society organizations in Riau province launched a joint statement calling on the Indonesian Government to review the ministerial decree of SK 327 year 2009 which is a basis of PT RAPP Blok Pulau Padang license for 41,205 hectares of peat forest. The total size of the island itself is entirely 110,000 hectares.

The residents of Pulau Padang who staged protest in Jakarta insisted to meet the Minister of Forestry and District Head in an attempt to stop operation of PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP), a subsidiary of Asian Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL) expanding its pulpwood plantation in the 110,000 hectares small island. Reports said DPR (House) asked Jakarta’s government security unit (satpol PP) to disperse the protesters, but the islands’ dwellers insisted to fight as hard as possible to protect their tent that built near gate of DPR compound.

Muslim Rasyid, who coordinate the Riau civil society organizations, said that the process of environmental assessment as regulated by the Indonesian Laws for the SK 327 license has many flaws. “The Ministry of Forestry should set up an independent and multiparty verification team to review permit of SK.327/Menhut-II/2009,” he said in a statement published on Jikalahari website.

He said the Government could sinergize multistakeholders and initiatives to create deep peatlands ecosystem management by communities in Pulau Padang which will provide the life of 32,000 population in the small island such as by model on deep peatland farming system.

EoF learns that SK 327 year 2009 also grants conversion licenses to several APRIL’s PT RAPP concessions covering expansion to Pulau Padang block, Kampar Peninsula (Tasik Belat and Sungai Kampar blocks), and Rimbang Baling forest’s Logas Selatan/Sei Tasem block which is regarded as dense tropical rainforest and important Sumatran tiger habitat as WWF recorded video of cubs and mother of Sumatran tiger in 2009.

The controversial permit covers total of 350,165 hectares which rises from 235,140 hectares where NGOs in Riau such as Jikalahari, Walhi Riau and LBH Riau filed civilian lawsuit to the Minister of Forestry last year due to the environmental assessment for the license is not updated and other irregularities.

Fadrizal Labay, Riau province’s enviromental agency head, once said that from his office’s Environmental assessment analysis (Amdal) meeting in 2006, it was only recommended 152,826 hectares out of 215,000 for PT RAPP to convert the forest.

“The validity of the Amdal analysis is for three year period. It means in 2009 this [Amdal’s validity] expired,” Fadrizal said as quoted as saying by Tribun Pekanbaru, 22 December 2009.

“PT RAPP should have reported every year on its operation conducted, but it is not implemented [by the company]. The Minister of Forestry in issuing the permit is not in line with the Amdal’s analysis,” Fadrizal added. EoF learns that the SK 327 issued by Minister of Forestry Malem Sambat Kaban on 12 June 2009.

Early this week, a massive rally planned by residents of Pulau Padang to flock Meranti Islands District office was aborted by ambush of civilian group in Selatpanjang town on Monday amid MPs’ vivid support to APRIL’s PT RAPP operation in the 1,900 square-kilometer small island.

Previously, a community group called Communal Communication Forum for Saving Pulau Padang (FKM-PPP ) said that one mouth-sewing protester has suffered stressful and treated at Mental Hospital of Grogol, West Jakarta, while at least other seven protesters hospitalized in general hospital of Cipto Mangunkusumo, Jakarta, due to extreme act by sewing mouth to reject PT RAPP’s conversion in their island.

The mouth sewing protest started in November last year in Pekanbaru and continued in Jakarta in December until today where the residents had been staying in a tent near House of Representatives Compound for one month. The protesters urged the Ministry of Forestry to reject PT RAPP operation for pulpwood conversion in the island as they claimed the expansion by APRIL had taken over their land and traditional farming.

FKM-PPP has urged District Head of Meranti, Irwan Nasir to issue a recommendation letter suggesting the Ministry of Forestry to exclude PT RAPP of Pulau Padang block concession from the permit of Minister of Forestry Decree number 327 year 2009.

On another development, Muslim Rasyid, denied the statement uttered by legislators of House of Representatives’s Commission IV saying Pulau Padang was hit by rampant illegal logging that supported by financial supports from Singapore and Malaysia neighboring countries.

“It’s just a turn of attention that aimed at undermining the community’s cause to review the license issued by the Ministry of Forestry to APRIL,” he said. “The members of parliament should focus to help community’s rights as well as to conserve threatened small island, not to back up a company which is greedily destroying the remaining natural forest,” said Muslim yesterday.

Teguh Yuwono, a forestry researcher from Gadjah Mada University, who conducted the research in Pulau Padang in 2011, said that deep peat more than 3 meter dominated the small island, even in area far from the coast the depth of peat is 6.5 meter.

The team of Forestry Faculty of Gadjah Mada University also concluded that most of dwelling areas and community’s rubber plantation in Pulau Padang are situated on 1-6 meter above water sea level, so forest conversion for pulpwood plantation and massive canal drainages by APRIL “will potentially accelerate the sinking of Padang island due to peat subsidence and elevating watersea level due to global warming.”

Meanwhile, Riau Legislative Council’s (DPRD) Commission B urged the Government to stop PT RAPP operation in Pulau Padang for good. Suparman, member of Commission B, said on Monday that the operation of pulp company in the small island will cause losses suffered by the community and will incite long-standing land dispute, Riau Online website reported