Saturday, 20 March 2010

Letter: Greased palm and orangutans

Letter: Greased palm and orangutans

Sat, 03/20/2010 Readers Forum The Jakarta Post

I sat here reading more ridiculous claims made by Gapki, the Indonesian palm oil producers association.

As we have come to expect, Gapki and its counterparts in Malaysia throw out misinformation in the forlorn hope it will show the palm oil industry in better light overseas.

The reality is, every time they deny joint responsibility (their partners being their respective governments) for damaging the environment in pursuit of some fast and loose money, they simply make matters worse for themselves. The palm oil industry knows the environmental damage it is doing, and so does everyone else.

For four days I have been touring north-west Kalimantan. At no time did I see any primary rainforest. In fact, I saw very little forest at all. Not once did I see wildlife. Think about this for a moment; hardly any trees, no birds, no animals and doubtless few fish in the polluted rivers.

The only wildlife I saw was in zoos or private hands. All were held prisoner in horrific conditions and none more so than the orang-utan, the one species Indonesia is known for worldwide.

It would appear that especially inhumane and despicable treatment is reserved for this species. The only way to describe the treatment of captive orangutans is barbaric and torturous. We even found one baby orangutan held by no less than a Regent in his yard. This sad, illegally held orangutan, was kept in a filthy cage and fed on rice, while the regent lived a life of luxury next door.

The so-called Orangutan Action Plan is a failure; not that this surprises anyone accustomed to environmental promises made by the Indonesian President.

The orangutans, as the rest of the rainforest inhabitants, have been sacrificed in return for money. And as we know, this government has a soft spot and deep pockets for money.

Sean Whyte
Pontianak, West Kalimantan