A demonstration representing five Indonesian palm oil and community groups protested at the EU Embassy in Jakarta on Wednesday.
The demonstration was made up of members of palm oil smallholder groups APKASINDO, SAMDADE, FORMISA, ASPEK PIR and farmer group Santri Tani Nahdlatul Ulama, representing more than 17 million palm oil smallholder lives across Indonesia.
The demonstrators made a list of key demands to the EU, and handed a petition directly to EU staff, before taking their fight to the Presidential Palace.
The farmers demanded that:
– Smallholder farmers be exempted from the EU Deforestation Regulation;
– Indonesia not be considered a ‘high risk’ country under the EUDR;
– ISPO certification and Indonesian regulations be recognised by the EU, as these have spurred smallholder improvements and reduced deforestation;
– Ensure that the EU no longer attacks palm oil;
– Apologise to all smallholders, in writing, for any discriminatory actions.
Farmers also called for a boycott of European products, from Airbus to Nestle.
The smallholders then marched on to the Presidential Palace, where they gave a list of demands to President Jokowi’s office. They called on the President to make overtures to the EU for a smallholder exemption, a low-risk designation for Indonesia, and ISPO recognition. They also called on the President to accelerate replanting programs in Indonesia and expedited settlement of land claims.
The demonstration garnered considerable coverage in Indonesia’s major media outlets and in some English-language outlets.
Gulat Manurung from APKASINDO accused the EU of ignoring Indonesia’s efforts on sustainability:
“It’s like a game of football, where the goalposts are always moved by the EU. When the EU knew that Indonesia was already heading towards sustainability (with ISPO), then deftly the EU changed with a new regulation, moving the goal.”
Gulat also indicated that the EU had not listened to any of the smallholder concerns, despite several meetings with smallholder groups.
The EU has a clear problem on its hands with both the Indonesian Government and the country’s farmers calling for change. The EU is prepared to accommodate the US when it needs to; will it do the same for Indonesia? Or is Southeast Asia simply not a priority for Brussels?
Europe needs to put its money where its mouth is.