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Indigenous group storms Indonesian palm oil mill

Dayak community in East Kalimantan wants plant shut down, compensation over pollution to environment

Indigenous group storms Indonesian palm oil mill

Members of a group of indigenous Dayak people occupy a palm oil mill belonging to the Subur Abadi Plantation in Kutai Timur district in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province on Nov. 16. (Photo supplied)

An indigenous community in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province has stormed and occupied a palm oil mill after accusing its owners of polluting a river they uses a water and food source.
Waste from the Subur Abadi Plantation mill in Kutai Timur district has polluted the Gesek River since 2019, resulting in people suffering skin diseases and the killing of fish, shrimps and other animals living in the waterway, members of the Dayak community said.
Repeated appeals to the company, a subsidiary of Astra Argo Lestari, the biggest palm oil firm in Indonesia, have fallen on deaf ears, they added.

“We complained about the pollution to the company countless times, but it never responded and ignored our demands,” a community leader called Elysason said.

“The management is making us suffer and hurting the dignity of indigenous people.”                 

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The lack of progress prompted hundreds of people to march on and occupy the mill factory last week, bringing production to a halt.
On Nov. 16 they met company officials and demanded that the mill be closed and local people be compensated, which was refused.

“The management of Subur Abadi Plantation must be held responsible because the mill’s waste has ravaged the Gesek River. As a result, this mill’s operations must stop,” said a statement handed to company officials by Elysason.
The Dayaks are being given moral support in their fight by the Catholic Church in Samarinda Archdiocese, where the mill is located.

The archdiocese’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission and VIVAT International Indonesia, a rights group of the Divine Word congregation, have called for the indigenous community’s rights to be respected.

Divine Word Brother Julius Sudir, chairman of the commission, said local people have occupied the site for a week and have vowed to remain until their demands are met.

At the very least, the indigenous people want the company to pay US$215,000 in compensation for the damage to the environment and people’s lives. Brother Sudir said.

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