Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar was reported as saying that at least four plantation companies whose land had been sealed off because fires have been spotted were subsidiaries of Malaysian groups.
The Indonesian government reportedly sealed off plantations operated by at least 30 companies, including the four Malaysian ones, and brought criminal charges against four of them.
In an immediate reaction, Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok said she was “very concerned” over Indonesia’s latest action against the four Malaysian companies, including a Sime Darby Plantation subsidiary.
Kok said the accusation of open burning against these companies was serious as it would be counter-productive to their business status.
“From our records, the four companies are among the most respected oil palm cultivators.
“They have already prescribed to and adopted certified sustainable cultivation practices, through Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil, Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, and the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC), or a combination of these internationally recognised certification systems.
“Those familiar with the industry will vouch for the fact that an act of open burning would result in the cessation of their certification status not only in Indonesia but throughout their operations, including in Malaysia,” she said.
Kok said she was unable to comment fully on the investigation and reporting by Indonesia until her ministry officials had full access to Indonesia’s investigation report.
She said she had spoken to the four companies named in the report, and they promised they would cooperate with the authorities.
“Such action is highly unwarranted, and I remain concerned that the current accusation will play right into the hands of the anti palm oil campaigners, with both Indonesia and Malaysia – as major palm oil producers – could end up as the ultimate losers,” said Kok, who added she will also speak with her Indonesian counterpart “to resolve this matter quickly and amicably”.
In a statement to The Star over the same issue, Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin said action must be taken in accordance with the law.
“Indonesia should take action against proven perpetrators of the forest fires, regardless of who they are, and without fear or favour, according to the law,” she said.
In a statement, Sime Darby Plantation (SDP) said as of 4pm yesterday, there has not been any action taken by Indonesia to seal off the operations of PT Sime Indo Agro (PT SIA).
“PT SIA is part of the Minamas Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SDP. “SDP would like to clarify that the recent fire incident, which occurred on Sept 3 outside of the operational area of PT SIA, and was in fact located in lands occupied by locals.
“This, however had been contained, and the incident was clarified to the visiting authorities from the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry,” it said.