APRIL taught legal lesson by court defeat  

(foresthints.news) - A three-member panel of judges at Jakarta's State Administrative Court (PTUN) has rejected a petition consisting of three requests from PT RAPP, a subsidiary of Singapore-based pulp and paper giant APRIL, at its fourth and final hearing (Dec 21).

This rejection means that APRIL, at this stage, cannot get away from fulfilling legal compliance in terms of peat recovery across its concessions in Sumatra’s Riau province.

In the wake of Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya’s annulment of PT RAPP's old work plans (Oct 16) - because the proposed revised work plans it had submitted consistently failed to comply with the set of new peat regulations - the APRIL company decided to take the matter to court.

At the conclusion of the court case, the sitting judges rejected the three requests in the APRIL company's petition, all of which were related to APRIL's opposition to the minister's move to accelerate the approval of a new work plan from the company which is required to include a long-term peat recovery plan.

The following three requests from the Sukanto Tanoto-owned company were rejected by the judges; firstly, the judges were asked to declare that the annulment of the old versions of the APRIL company's 10-year work plan by Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Minister was contrary to proper government administration and the general principles of good governance.

Secondly, the APRIL company requested that the annulment of the old versions of its 10-year work plan by Minister Siti Nurbaya be declared invalid and null and void.

Thirdly, the APRIL company asked the judges to instruct and oblige the minister to revoke her decree annulling the company's old work plans.

APRIL's supply chains have been shown to be linked to 2015's devastating peat fires. In fact, last year, the minister also imposed sanctions on the Singapore-based company due to peat fires in its Pulau Padang concession in the Sumatran province of Riau.

The APRIL company PT RAPP is no stranger to controversy. For instance, last year it was caught red-handed by the ministry carrying out new peat development in Riau’s Kampar Peninsula landscape, an action outlawed by the Indonesian government since early November 2015.

Below are some photographs of the court proceedings, taken by foresthints.news (Dec 21), at which all the APRIL company’s requests were rejected.

86 versus 42

PT RAPP presented 86 pieces of evidence aimed at convincing the judges that its petition was valid and justifiable legally. To counter this, the ministry presented 42 pieces of evidence as a basis for appealing to the judges to reject all the APRIL company's requests.

As it turned out, two of the 86 pieces of evidence presented to the court by the APRIL company were legal opinions from Bagir Manan (Nov 11), former Chief Justice of Indonesia's Supreme Court (2001-2008), and Mahfud MD (Oct 23), former Chief Justice of Indonesia's Constitutional Court (2008- 2013).

However, the use of these two legal opinions proved unable to defeat Minister Siti Nurbaya in court over her decision to annul the APRIL company's work plans due to its non-compliance with new peat regulations.

These photographs show members of the ministry team, led by Secretary General Bambang Hendroyono (dressed in batik), embracing each other after the presiding judge read out the rejection of all the APRIL company's requests.

After the verdict (Dec 21), the APRIL company stated that it would adjust its annulled work plans to comply with the new peat regulations, in line with directives from the ministry, even though these adjustments will significantly affect its business activities.

Meanwhile, Minister Siti Nurbaya (Dec 21) asserted that she is constantly wary of promises made by APRIL as they are often broken.

As an example, the minister cited a public statement delivered by APRIL in a joint press conference with the ministry (Oct 24) promising to revise its old work plans to bring it into alignment with new peat regulations. This turned out to be an empty promise, with the case instead being taken to court.

In another example, from May to early December this year, the minister sent 9 letters to the APRIL company in an effort to ensure that its proposed revised work plan did not deviate from the new peat regulations. However, by the time this news report was posted, the APRIL company's proposed revised work plan was still not aligned with the new peat regulations.

According to ministry data (Dec 21), in contrast to APRIL, 27 pulpwood companies under the control of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) have had their work plans approved after they were brought into alignment with the new peat regulations.