Corporate security guards and police kicked and brutally dragged away Greenpeace activists during a peaceful protest this past week at the headquarters of Indonesia’s largest logging and palm oil company, the Sinar Mas Group.
The protesters were demanding a halt to the company’s destruction of Indonesia’s forests. Two dozen protesters had chained themselves to the entrance of the Sinar Mas building while climbers deployed an enormous, five-story banner calling Sinar Mas a "Forest and Climate Criminal".
In a press release, Bustar Maltar, forest campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, issued this statement:
The excessive violence today by Sinar Mas security is testament to the way this company does business. Sinar Mas may think they are above the law, but the right to peaceful protest is enshrined in Indonesian constitution. We took action today because Sinar Mas and the Indonesian government are failing to do so. We are facing the greatest threat to humanity — climate chaos, yet still companies like Sinar Mas continue to destroy forests and peatlands, rather than protecting them for future generations and, as is becoming increasingly clear, for climate stability.
In an e-mail, Greenpeace protest organizers provided this eyewitness account of what happened:
We unfurled our massive banner facing the HQ building and got our 25 activists locked-down and in position in front of the main doors. We were greeted by SM security — both in uniform and plain clothed. After a bit of negotiation, they started pulling, kicking and trying to drag our activists out of the way. Meanwhile SM security were also threatening our banner climbers, pulling the ropes and making the situation unsafe. Finally the police arrived and things calmed down.
We stayed in place for more than two hours before the police removed the activists one by one, putting them out on the footpath and erecting their own fence (effectively shutting the building). The police did not arrest our activists as there were insufficent vans to take the activists to the police station. We stayed outside the fence until we were reunited with our seven climbers who had been detained inside the building.
We hosted a press conference in a nearby hotel, which was very well attended by the media (and two SM officials), and SM have been pushing their line of ‘but we don’t understand, we’re doing the right thing’. Great job by all the activists, who in the heat of the moment, with people shouting, hurting and hauling at them, remained calm, passive and non-violent.
Sinar Mas is being singled out as it is poised to massively expand palm oil plantations on unplanted concession areas totaling 200,000 hectares of Indonesian rainforest, with plans to acquire a further 1.1 million hectares, mainly in Papua. Human rights organizations have raised serious concerns about the heavy handed repression of community protests against APP, owned by Sinar Mas, in Suluk Bongkal, Riau at the end of last year.
Greenpeace is calling for an immediate halt to all expansion into forests and peatland by Sinar Mas and other companies, and calling on the Indonesian government to immediately implement a moratorium on any further forest conversion. This will not only help curb the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, but will also safeguard the wealth of tropical biodiversity and protect the livelihood of forest dependent communities all across Indonesia.