IOI Corporation, one of Malaysia's leading producers of palm oil, has failed to comply with the terms set by the RSPO Grievance Panel last month, says an international coalition of NGOs that has filed several formal grievances against IOI Corporation, an executive board member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
Despite this failure, the RSPO has granted IOI another 21-day extension. The NGO coalition, among which are three RSPO members, is extremely disappointed with this extension and insists that IOI not be allowed to sell its palm oil as green and sustainable until an acceptable solution is in place. RSPO can no longer afford to be lenient and lose further credibility in its certification process.
Last month, the RSPO Grievance Panel established that IOI had breached RSPO's Code of Conduct and Partial Certification requirements. It granted IOI a 28-day grace period to come up with an acceptable solution, which preferably should be mutually agreed to by the parties involved.
During this time, IOI spared no opportunity to attempt to dismiss the substance of the grievances. The company has shown no remorse for its deception of government authorities and its illegal land clearing activities in Ketapang, Indonesia.
IOI's management has furthermore sustained the company's hardline approach towards the community of Long Teran Kanan in Sarawak, Malaysia, trying to intimidate the villagers into submission by filing police reports against individuals involved in a community action to reclaim their native land.
The company's breaches of RSPO's requirements are of a serious nature. They involve illegal encroachment into some 1,000 hectares of protected forest lands outside the company's plantation boundaries in the Danau Manis Mata forest reserve in Indonesia, a law violation that Friends of the Earth had detected in February 2010.
IOI has also misled the Indonesian authorities to believe it did not conduct any land clearing before its Environmental Impact Assessments were reviewed and approved.
IOI knowingly sustains a long-lasting major land conflict with villagers of Long Teran Kanan in Sarawak by holding on to its decision to appeal a Miri High Court ruling of March 2010 that ruled in favour of the villagers affected by IOI's activities.
Following the ruling, IOI has been pressing the community to surrender a list of villagers to be compensated while also filing an appeal to the Miri High Court ruling, in an effort to overturn the court's recognition of the community's native customary rights to the land, identified as Lot 3 and Lot 8, Dulit Land District, in the IOI Pelita Estate.
"We are always willing to talk with IOI, but we will not negotiate with a gun pointed at our heads, if there is no black-and-white commitment from them, and unless their negotiators are decision makers within IOI.
"On March 21, 2011, IOI Pelita dragged us to the Miri High Court. They must acknowledge and respect our native customary right to the land and withdraw its appeal," said Lah Anyie Ngau, village head of Long Teran Kanan.
I call upon RSPO to implement its own policies and deny IOI Corporation the economic benefits from marketing sustainable palm oil until it is compliant with the relevant requirements.
Such a decision will give RSPO a much needed credibility boost as the organisation has been questioned for its slow actions and unwillingness to address public grievances against its membership.
It is unacceptable that RSPO continues to issue sustainability certificates to IOI after we had filed our first grievance against IOI in November 2010.
The signatories to the complaint against IOI filed with RSPO are Borneo Resource Institute, Sarawak Indigenous Lawyers Association, Sarawak Dayak Iban Association, Tenaganita, Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific, Grassroots (all in Malaysia), Sawit Watch, Lembaga Gemawan, WALHI Kalimantan Barat, Save our Borneo and Kontak Rakyat Borneo in Indonesia, Rainforest Action Network in the United States, Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie) and Friends of the Earth Europe in Brussels.
Irene Fernandez is director of Tenaganita and board member of Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific, which is also a member of RSPO.