Thursday, 10 September 2009

Malaysians fouling it on palm oil

Submitted by amir azree on Thursday, September 10th, 2009 Malay Mail

Palm oil planters in Indonesia accused of violating human rights, polluting

Masami Mustaza

Thursday, September 10th, 2009 09:21:00

SEVERAL local oil palm plantation companies have come under fire in Indonesia for violating human rights and the environment, Indonesian online news portal VIVAnews reported on Sept 8.

Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) deputy chairman Ridha Saleh told a Press conference in Jakarta that the violations by several Malaysian oil plantation firms had been going on for some time, VIVAnews said.

It said Komnas HAM has raised the matter with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), but there has been no response from Suhakam.

Ridha said the alleged violations covered environmental damage from land burning, violations of the people's land rights, forest destruction, turf-field clearing and environmental destruction from factory wastes.

The report also named the companies committing the violations as Kulim (Malaysia) Bhd in Central Kalimantan, Tabung Haji Plantations Bhd in Riau and Wilmar International Ltd in West and Central Kalimantan.

However, Wilmar is a Singapore company listed on the Singapore stock exchange. Kulim’s corporate affairs manager Shamsul Nizam Shamsudin said the company no longer owns any plantation in Central Kalimantan.

“Kulim fully divested its interests in Kalimantan in 2007. A corporate announcement was made to this effect on June 22, 2007 on Bursa Malaysia’s announcement page,” said Shamsul, adding that Kulim intends to pursue the matter with Komnas HAM to clear its name.

Reports on Kulim’s divestiture were also published by local business publications in 2007. Tabung Haji Plantations could not be reached for comment.

Suhakam confirmed it received a memorandum from Komnas HAM on these allegations about two to three months ago. It is understood the matter is currently being investigated by its complaints committee.

On another matter, a Press campaign run by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), a self-regulatory organisation of Britain's advertising industry, which said a number of claims made by MPOC were misleading and could not be proven.

The British newspaper Guardian said these claims include that palm oil was the “green answer” and that it was the “only product able to sustainably and efficiently meet a larger portion of the world's increasing demand for oil cropbased consumer goods, foodstuffs and biofuels”.

ASA said MPOC could not prove that the production of palm oil did not lead to deforestation or environmental damage. Last year, ASA banned a TV commercial by the MPOC on similar grounds.