Logo: Solidarity South Pacific

Norwich activists fined for Pacific Solidarity

Report consists of a report of the trial and the press release put out in the run up. This action was one of a number in 2003 carried out against UK-Indonesian Timber Trade.


Timber Trade Activists Convicted of Disorderly Conduct

To nobody's surprise, the two activists on trial for an office occupation at Indonesian timber agents Cipta last July, were found guilty of Section 5 of the Public Order Act. The defendants each received a conditional discharge for two years and they were ordered to pay costs of £300 between them.

The judge was clearly not interested in the issues surrounding the case and demonstrably paid no attention when matters of environmental destruction or human rights were mentioned. He claimed to have "considered the case carefully" but had obviously made up his mind hours earlier, betraying his prejudice with the comment, "The Prosecution witness' statements differed from yours, but I preferred theirs." He further accused the activists of being "arrogant" for "imposing their views" on the nice timber traders.

The Prosecution blocked all expert witness statements regarding global-scale timber crime, and refused to acknowledge that one defendant was of "good character" on the strength of a long-spent bind over. He and the judge exchanged conspiratorial glances throughout the proceedings.

The office occupation had involved no violence or theft, but had clearly ruined the day of the office manager, Sarah Rushton who [quote] "couldn't care less" about what was happening in the Indonesian Rainforest and occupied West Papua. One of the defendants commented after the trial, "I'm not sorry we caused her minor distress and alarm by visiting Cipta. Under the circumstances it was really the least we could do."

Press Release: For release Monday 14th June

STARTS

Trial of Environmental Activists vs. Timber Traders

Today the trial will be taking place of two environmental activists accused of Disorderly Conduct at an office occupation in July of last year. Rebecca Everall and Richard Lewis were protesting against the Indonesian logging industry at the offices of Cipta Ltd in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. They are being represented at Mildenhall Magistrates Court by Bindman and Partners, the London based civil liberties solicitors, and will plead not guilty.

The protest itself was inspired by a plea for support from indigenous forest dwellers in the Pacific Rim, via the campaign organisation Solidarity South Pacific. People living on the front line of deforestation sent a request for European environmentalists to target the Western companies complicit in rainforest depletion. After researching Cipta's company profile and corporate attitude, a group of five individuals from Norfolk decided to confront them on the issue by staging an office occupation at their premises in Bury St. Edmunds. The protest was non-aggressive and involved no damage to property.

Cipta UK are agents facilitating the import of plywood products from Indonesia into the UK. They source wood primarily from their parent company, Tjipta Rimba, but also deal with Barito Pacific Timber, both of whom have been implicated in illegal trading and widespread environmental destruction.

According to Greenpeace researchers, Tjipta Rimba is one of the four main brands importing plywood to the UK. It operates in Sumatra where it purchases timber from the open market. Sumatra's lowland forests, home to several endangered species including the Sumatran tiger, rhino and orang-utan, are at risk of being logged out by 2010. Tjipta uses Barito's Tunggal Yudi sawmill, Samarinda, which a Greenpeace investigation found to be dealing in untraceable and illegal wood.

Owned by Prajogo Pangestu, a political/business crony of Indonesia's former dictator General Suharto, Barito Pacific is the largest plywood manufacturer in the world, holding forest concessions all over the archipelago, including Sumatra, Kalimantan, Maluku and West Papua. Two Suharto children, a Suharto son-in-law and two brothers-in-law have either shares or positions in this group which owns the largest number of forest licences in Indonesia (52 areas) for a total of more than 5 million hectares. According to George Aditjondro's research (see sources, below) Pangestu's extensive funding of Suharto's regime represented significant military involvement, specifically 3000 highly trained "clandestine" Kopassus troops answerable only to Prabowo Subianto, Suharto's son-in-law. Under the new regime, Pangestu is still indicated as a major player (along with Suharto family members and Eka Tjipta Widjaja) behind the undercover military incitement to sectarian conflict in Maluku.

In financial terms, the Indonesian Army and Timber Barons such as Barito Pacific have become inextricably linked: the military are shareholders in the timber trade and major concession holders in their own right, as well as being the recipients of donations from the loggers. They rely on extra-governmental sources for up to 75% of their budget, leading to evidence of routine corruption and persecution of tribal people.

To support their defence that their conduct was reasonable, the activists will be submitting statements from experts. Stokely Webster, a Greenpeace researcher will provide information on the allegedly illegal practices of the two timber merchants with whom Cipta deals. Benny Wenda, a West Papuan refugee will report on the acute threat to Indigenous peoples' way of life that the timber industry represents. The trial is expected to last one day.

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Notes to Editor

Contacts: (General) Helen (01508) 531 636
(Legal) Meredith Cloke/ Mike Schwarz 020 78334433

List of quotations: See below.
Sources: See below.

Quotations



"Indonesia's unique Rainforests are being plundered at a catastrophic rate. This is of exceptional importance for three main reasons: firstly, the vast biodiversity , nature working as it should do, is now too tragically rare to lose to yet more impoverished wasteland; secondly, pretty much the only hope we have of reversing the dangerous escalation of climate change lies in preserving the worlds forests, which are highly effective carbon sinks; thirdly and not least, we must ensure the survival of people who have lived in harmony with their environment for (effectively) ever, who now face the destruction of their sacred forests, becoming victims of atrocious human rights violations when they try to resist. All this for cheap disposable plywood. It is the insanity of our world that we stand trial for peaceful protest while such momentous global crimes are being committed."

Rebecca Everall, defendant.

"The logging of the South Pacific is insanity. This region contains many of the last remaining wild places and wild peoples, but Western civilisation continues to consume and destroy every last bit. Companies like Cipta are the slave traders and murderous conquistadors of our time. They must be exposed and stopped. Their greed is sick, wild nature is infinitely rich compared compared to their profits."

John, a Solidarity South Pacific activist

"Expecting or asking one country to combat illegal logging while at the same time receiving or importing illegal logs does not support efforts to combat these forest crimes… In fact, allowing the import and trade of illegal timber products could be considered as an act to assist or even to conduct forest crime"

Muhammed Prakosa, Indonesian Forest Minister, 26 Jan 2003, quoted in "Partners in Crime"

Sources