Indonesia: ‘We’re only fighting fires of past sinners’: Luhut defends govt's palm oil support

The Jakarta Post 2 Dec 18;

Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan has rebuffed claims that he and the government were not paying attention to the deforestation and forest fires caused by oil palm plantations.

He said he was also worried about their environmental impacts on younger generations, but he claimed the government was struggling to make progress since the land concessions for the plantations, some of which were on fire-prone peatlands, had been given out by past governments.

“We’re just fighting fires [created by] past sinners,” he said during a press conference at his office in Central Jakarta on Friday, as quoted by

Luhut reiterated his derision for environmental group Greenpeace Indonesia, which had disrupted the operations of a tanker carrying palm oil belonging to the Wilmar trading company in the Bay of Cadiz near Spain, saying that the government has every right to question the local chapter of an international group.

However, he denied allegations that the government had not done anything to achieve a sustainable palm oil industry. The government, he said, would next year release its One Map, an integrated map recording land ownership all across the country.

“Those who make noise now will later be proven to have four or five properties,” said Luhut. “Those who claim to be poor cannot hide that they have land everywhere.”

He said the map would also reveal the operations of companies like Wilmar and whether they are linked to plantations in protected areas.

Luhut said he was the one who had been tasked by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to lead a team to quell forest fires in 2015, which were among the worst ever experienced in the country.

Read also: Indonesian government remains vigilant on forest fires

While he said it was previous administrations that had carelessly issued land concessions, he lamented how people now criticized Jokowi, who was the one who banned the expansion of plantations on peatlands and the expansion of oil palm plantations.

Luhut claimed that not a single plantation concession has been issued during the Jokowi administration.