Government Agrees To Enquiry Into Use Of ‘illegal’ Indonesian Rainforest Timber On Home Office Site

REENPEACE CLIMBERS AGREE TO END OCCUPATION.

The Government today backed down and agreed to launch an enquiry into the use of Indonesian rainforest timber on the Home Office HQ site , 2 Marsham St, Westminster. In response eleven Greenpeace climbers who
have occupied four 40 metre high cranes on the site for the past 2 days agreed to end their occupation and abseiled down from the cranes. The climbers (9 men and 2 women) were escorted off the site.

Yesterday, in response to questions about the Greenpeace occupation of the Home Office HQ site at Prime Ministers Questions, Tony Blair said that the Home Secretary ‘vigorously disputed the claims being made ‘.

The Home Office had also been dismissing Greenpeace evidence of the use of illegally logged Indonesian rainforest timber on the site. The home office in a statement to the PA said yesterday that they were confident that all the timber being used in the construction of the new home office HQ was’ sourced legally and in accordance with government and good practice guide lines.

The developments today echo those of last year. Following a Greenpeace invasion of the cabinet office site last year, during which volunteers removed doors sourced from Africa ‘s rain forests and replaced them with forest stewardship council certified (FSC) doors, Tony Blair in prime ministers questions accused Greenpeace of being > ‘> misguided. The cabinet office was later forced to retracted this statement, a government enquiry followed which, accepted Greenpeace’s case and lead to promises to properly implement their timber procurement policy.

John Sauven, Greenpeace Forest campaigner said,” We hope today’s statement will result in the full implementation of the Governments procurement policy. We don’t want to be back again next year, discovering that another rainforest is being trashed to provide timber for yet another government building project”

“The UK must also push the EU to ban the import of illegally logged timber. While the EU market continues to be flooded with cheap illegally logged timber there will be no hope for the worlds remaining ancient forests. Greenpeace will continue to monitor and investigate government timber use to ensure they are abiding fully with the commitments they made today.

Andy Tait, one of the climbers involved in the occupation said, “it ‘ s been a long and tiring couple of days but
we ‘ve been kept going by the messages of support from the members of the public, including a lot of government employees. The government must act now, before Indonesia’s rain forests are completely trashed.”

Home Office HQ site remains occupied as timber protest enters second day

Greenpeace accuses the Home Secretary of condoning forest crime

Thursday 5th June, 2003. Greenpeace today rejected claims by Home Secretary, David Blunkett (1) that the Indonesian rainforest timber being used on the site of the new Home Office HQ has been sourced legally and is in line with Government policy. It accused him of condoning forest crimes.

The Home Office building site, at 2 Marsham Street remained occupied this morning. Eleven Greenpeace climbers maintained their presence up the four site cranes overnight. They have pledged to stay in place until the Government stops buying illegal or destructively logged Indonesian rainforest timber and agrees to properly implement its timber procurement policy. Three years ago Tony Blair promised that ‘as a government we will purchase timber only from legal and sustainable sources’.

Greenpeace forest campaigner John Sauven said, ‘The Government will not be able to produce a shred of evidence that this timber is from legal and sustainable sources. That’s because there simply is no Indonesian rainforest plywood on the market right now that can be described as legal or sustainable.

‘We have photo documentation that proves which companies are supplying the Home Office site and we know from our extensive research that they all have an appalling record on illegal logging and human rights.’

The timber is supplied by:

Sumalindo Lestari Jaya (2) – part-owned by Soeharto crony and convicted criminal Bob Hasan who is currently in jail for defrauding the Department of Forestry. There is a long history of social strife on Sumalindo concessions and the company is reported to have torched its own plantations in order to receive compensation.

Raja Garuda Mas (RGM) (3) – uses logs from some of Sumatra’s remaining lowland rainforests to manufacture plywood. Demand for cheap tropical timber products is rapidly destroying these rainforests, the only place on earth where the endangered Sumatran orang-utan exists.

During the course of Greenpeace’s action, the volunteers have spotted and photographed plywood supplied by another Indonesian company, Korindo (4). At a high level timber industry meeting yesterday in London, the director of Indonesia’s Forestry Ministry (5) responsible for inspecting Indonesia’s mills informed the UK Timber Trade Federation that one of Korindo’s mills, joint-owned by the convicted criminal Bob Hasan, is currently under threat of closure for illegal activities. Indonesian Government inspectors discovered it was ‘harbouring illegal timber’ from the brother of one of Indonesia’s most brutal timber barons, Abdul Rasyid (6).

In a meeting with Greenpeace, the Home Office site contractor (Bouygues) conceded that its definition of legal meant simply that it had bought the plywood from a trader rather than stealing it of his shelves. The issue is not over whether the timber was shoplifted or not, but whether the timber was from illegal or destructive sources in Indonesia.

At present, virtually all timber coming out of Indonesia is illegal and destructively logged. The logging industry is so out of control in the country that most of Indonesia’s lowlands forests are set to be logged out by 2010 according to the World Bank. Even Indonesia’s own Environment Minister said ‘By buying timber sourced from Indonesia, you are facilitating the destruction of our rainforests and national parks.'(7)

John Sauven continued, ‘The Government’s reaction to these revelations has been pathetic. First Tony Blair claimed the Home Secretary was vigorously denying the accusation and tried to pass the buck to the contractors. Then the Home Office tried to duck the issue by issuing misleading statements.’

The standards at Blunkett’s Home Office are in sharp contrast with those Gordon Brown’s Treasury Office. The refurbishment of the Treasury office is using plywood from legal and sustainable sources, certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

The occupation of the Home Office site follows last year’s Greenpeace invasion of the Cabinet Office site, during which Greenpeace removed doors sourced from the ancient forests of Africa and replaced them with sustainably sourced FSC certified doors. On the day of the action Tony Blair in Prime Ministers Questions referred to Greenpeace as ‘misguided’. The Cabinet Office was later forced to retract the statement and a Government enquiry followed which accepted Greenpeace’s case and led to promises to properly implement their timber procurement policy.

ENDS

For more information contact Greenpeace Press Office onsite on 07801 212993/07950 204268 or on 020 7865 8255. Full references are available online at www.saveordelete.com in the Greenpeace briefing and report Partners in crime: a Greenpeace investigation of the links between the UK and Indonesia’s timber barons.

(1) On 4 June 2003 a Home Office spokesperson told the Press Association ‘all the timber being used in the construction of the new Home Office central London accommodation has been sourced legally, in accordance with Government and good practice guidelines….we are looking into the origins of the wood being used in the temporary hoardings’ (source PA). In addition during yesterdays’ Prime Ministers questions, Tony Blair stated in a response to a question from Sue Doughty MP ‘Is this something to do with a fence around Marsham Street ? I regret to say along with everything else I am not absolutely 100% up to speed with events around Marsham Street but the Home Secretary seems to be disputing rather vigorously the claim that has been made there.’

(2) Sumalindo Lestari Jaya. At the beginning of the work at 2 Marsham Street in October 2002, Greenpeace filmed and photographed site hoarding being erected using Indonesian rainforest plywood. The plywood, imported through Tilbury, came from Sumalindo.

Sumalindo is a subsidiary of the Astra Group, part-owned by Soeharto crony and convicted criminal Bob Hasan who is currently in jail for defrauding the Department of Forestry. There is a long history of social strife on Sumalindo concessions and according to sources, the company is reported to have torched its plantations and then claimed they were being damaged by forest fires in order to receive compensation. At the plywood mill owned by Sumalindo, which exports to the UK, workers went unpaid for over four months in early 2002. Company officials said the workers, mostly women, had ‘voluntarily’ agreed to non-payment. Plans are afoot to give 75% control of Sumalindo to an Indonesian military front company. The sale price is reported to be US$1, with Indonesian state banks forgiving Sumalindo’s debts of over US$4 million.

(3) Raja Garuda Mas Group (RGM). In February 2003, Greenpeace documented pallets of Besitang rainforest plywood on the 2 Marsham Street site. The plywood is currently being used for formwork, to hold wet concrete in place. The plywood comes from the company PT AFR – which uses timber from some of Sumatra’s last remaining lowland rainforests to manufacture plywood. Demand for cheap tropical timber products is rapidly destroying these rainforests, the only place on earth where the endangered Sumatran orang-utan exists. RGM Group owns seven plywood/saw mills in strife-torn Aceh and Riau in Sumatra. It also owns pulp mills, one of which is estimated to have cleared 220,000 hectares of rainforest in less than six years.

Collusion with Aceh’s illegal logging networks inevitably involves the Indonesian military, as here and elsewhere the armed forces receive most of their budgetary shortfall in payoffs from illegal activities, including logging. RGM has had intense conflicts with indigenous communities. For instance, one mill owned by RGM has been the cause of human rights abuses in North Sumatra, following the seizure of community land for plantation without compensation. According to Human Rights Watch and the Indonesian environmental NGO Walhi, in the winter of 1998/99 police were called in to quell local community protest: seven people were shot by the police; 90 are alleged to have been abducted and tortured or otherwise mistreated, one of whom later died in hospital of injuries, two have ‘disappeared’ and are presumed dead, five remain blinded or crippled from injuries, seven had their homes or shops vandalised.

(4) Korindo – After decimating Kalimantan’s rainforests since the 1970s, Korindo has more recently become a pioneering force of destruction in West Papua, in stark violation of indigenous people’s rights to land and livelihood. Korindo’s concessions here encompass entire watersheds of some of the most biodiverse rainforests on earth. In a shocking self-incrimination statement on its own website, Korindo admits: ‘In 1995, we extended our timber development efforts to Irian Jaya, one of the most secluded inland regions in Indonesia with the spirit of “anyone who arrives there first gets it first” and invested in the plywood manufacturing facilities there accordingly.’

(5) Banjar Yulianto Laban, 4 June 2003. Of Indonesia’s more than 400 large timber processing mills, the Ministry has so far inspected eight – all of which it is now trying to close for illegalities. The meeting, called specifically to address the issue of UK trade dependency on illegal timber from Indonesia, was supported by funding from the UK Department for International Development.

(6) See EIA (2003) Above the Law case study.

(7) Nabiel Makarim (September 2002).

GREENPEACE OCCUPIES NEW HOME OFFICE HQ
Government caught trashing Indonesia’s last rainforests

Wednesday 4th June, 2003 – London. At 6am this morning Greenpeace volunteers occupied the construction site of the new Home Office HQ at 2 Marsham Street, Westminster (1) and declared it an ancient forest crime scene. Eleven Greenpeace climbers scaled and occupied four huge cranes on the site and hung banners saying ‘Rainforest Demolition Site’.

This action follows a Greenpeace investigation, which documented Government contractors using illegal and destructively logged plywood from Indonesia’s last remaining rainforests. The plywood – used for the site hoardings and to hold wet concrete in place while it sets – has been supplied by timber barons notorious for illegal logging, environmental destruction, corruption and human rights abuses.

This directly contravenes commitments by both Prime Minister Tony Blair and Environment Minister Michael Meacher to only use timber from legal and sustainable sources on government projects, such as those independently certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) (2). Only last month, Meacher confirmed that ‘Government procurement policy on timber applies to all wood and products made from wood used in performing government contracts. That includes the wood used temporarily during construction works as well as wood fixed as part of a finished structure’. (3)

The climbers will remain there until Tony Blair agrees to put his words into action: he must stop his Government buying timber from the trashing of Indonesia’s rainforests and ensure full implementation of his Government’s timber procurement policy. Greenpeace also calls on the Prime Minister to ban the import of illegal timber.

Greenpeace forest campaigner John Sauven said, ‘Tony Blair has pledged time and again to only buy timber from ‘legal and sustainable’ sources. Our action today exposes his continued failure to turn words into deeds’.

‘Trashing Indonesia’s last rainforests to make throwaway plywood to shield government building projects is like smashing up Stonehenge to make rubble for road building. What sort of fate is this for the world’s ancient forests?’

The action coincides with the launch of a new Greenpeace report, ‘Partners in crime: a Greenpeace investigation of the links between the UK and Indonesia’s timber barons’, which traces the trade in illegally logged timber from Indonesia’s rainforests to end users like the UK government and builders merchants like Jewson and Travis Perkins. The report reveals that approximately 88% of all wood from Indonesia’s remaining rainforests is set to come from illegal sources this year. Indeed a recent assessment by the World Bank and WWF concluded that ‘Probably no log in Indonesia is produced in a way that is not characterised by the breaking or manipulation of some regulation.’

Indonesia is suffering the highest rate of forest destruction in the world, which is driven by demand for cheap timber and paper products. Many of Indonesia’s unique species depend upon these forests for their survival and the country now has more species threatened with extinction
than anywhere else on earth, including the orang-utan. The World Bank recently described Indonesia as facing ‘a species extinction of planetary proportions’ and estimated that if the current rate of forest destruction continues, most of Indonesia’s ancient forests will be logged out by 2010.

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The Vice President of the UK Timber Trade Federation admitted, in a recent letter to members that was leaked to Greenpeace, ‘as many of you will know, Indonesian mills are not able to provide sufficient evidence of legality and sustainability for the UK market’ (4). In January this year Indonesia’s own Forest Minister stated that ‘allowing the import and trade of illegal timber products could be considered as an act to assist or even to conduct forest crime’. Yet incredibly, the trade to the UK continues. Approximately 50% of UK tropical plywood imports are from Indonesia’s rainforests.

Indonesian companies whose products are being used on the Home Office construction site include Raja Garunda Mas (RGM) and Sumalindo Lestari Jaya.

RGM produced the plywood used for holding the wet concrete in place. The group continues to log some of Sumatra’s last remaining lowland rainforests, the only refuge of the Sumatran orang-utan. Over the winter of 1998/99 one of RGM’s companies called police in to quell community protests against its seizure of community land in Sumatra: seven people were shot dead by police; 90 are alleged to have been abducted or tortured; two have disappeared and five remain blinded or crippled.

Sumalindo produced the rainforest plywood for the hoardings on this site. The company has a long history of social strife on its concessions, and just last year workers at its plywood mill went unpaid for four months. It has been alleged that the company torched plantations in order to get compensation. The company is partly owned by Bob Hasan, a crony of the former Indonesian dictator Soeharto, who is in jail for defrauding the Indonesian Department of Forestry. Sumalindo is currently being taken over by an Indonesian military front company.

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