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Malaysian palm oil companies say their concession maps are state secrets

May 6, 2016

Malaysian palm oil companies say their concession maps are state secrets

6th May 2016 / Philip Jacobson

In the war on opaque management of Southeast Asia’s natural resources, reformers gained ground on Tuesday, when Indonesia’s land minister affirmed the right of oil palm companies to publish their own concession maps. Doing so would violate no law, Ferry Mursyidan Baldan said in an official letter to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the world’s largest association for ethical production of the commodity. The pronouncement came two-and-a-half years after the RSPO committed to sharing the maps of its grower members, a resolution that Indonesian and Malaysian firms have resisted due to what they have portrayed as uncertainty over whether publishing the information is legal.

If transparency advocates were excited by this latest development, the companies’ reaction might give them pause. Edi Suhardi, chairman of the RSPO’s Indonesian Growers Caucus, said his side remained unconvinced the maps could be released without running afoul of the law. He pointed to a different letter issued a year ago by the agriculture ministry’s plantations chief, Gamal Nasir, which stated that the intended disclosures were illegal. Unless that dictum were expressly revoked or superseded, Suhardi told Mongabay on Wednesday, the growers could not condone publication.

Even that would not be enough. Last December, when the RSPO, having deemed Gamal Nasir’s objection absent of any legal weight, announced it would proceed with publication, it allowed an exemption for Malaysia, where the legality of sharing maps “continues to be ambiguous within the laws of the country.” That the same did not apply to Indonesia was a “double standard” to which the archipelago’s growers could not abide, Suhardi maintained. Until an “equal commitment” from all growers was secured, his side would “maintain the status quo.”

Read more at Mongabay.

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