Eagle High Plantations (Eagle High) which is owned by the Peter Sondakh controlled Rajawali Group has not obtained its Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification despite publicly stating that it is working towards obtaining its first certification by 2016. In early 2014, the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) became an official part of the RSPO structure, to ensure that the responsibility of businesses to respect human rights in the palm oil sector by applying due diligence to human rights and develop action plans to avoid human rights violations.
It is no secret that Eagle High’s practices have been marred in controversy due to its unsustainable palm oil cultivation practices, its blatant disregard for regulations in the name of short-term profits for its stakeholders, illegal burning, human rights violations and so on which has resulted in them not being able to obtain the RSPO certification.
A New York Times report states that the Rajawali Group is accused of using of child labour in their plantations and children who are as young as 6 work in Rajawali owned plantations to support their families. According to Indonesian law, the minimum age for hazardous work, including jobs on plantations, is 18. A spokesperson for Eagle High blamed the plantation workers for allowing their children to come to work in the plantations and further questioned Indonesian labour law by suggesting that children who are 15 years old should be able to work in the plantations to help their families. It is clear that the management of Eagle High prefer playing the blame game instead of implementing and enforcing rules or to assist their workers by providing childcare facilities or access to education for the underage children. Further, Greenpeace reported that the only action taken by the company to eliminate this was limited to advising workers not to bring children to work and providing some educational support on the matter.
To further add to the accusations of human rights violations, Greenpeace also reported that in September 2013, PT Tandan Sawita Papua (owned by Eagle High) reportedly sacked four casual labourers after they took strike in protest of the company allegedly doubling the daily targets for workers who did not have permanent contracts, resulting in these workers having unmanageable workloads. About 7 months later, another two employees were imprisoned for demanding better working conditions. The two men were reportedly summoned to the police station, where they were held for around two weeks until they agreed to sign statements accepting their dismissal from the company and also agreeing not to make further demands. These incidents clearly show that the company is taking advantage and abusive of their workers who are dependent on the company for their livelihood. These workers are also helpless and are unable to enforce their rights as the company is clearly in collusion with the local police.
There has also been a number of incidents reported that suggests repressive treatment of company workers. The most serious of these was the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old company employee, Marvel Doga, by the state security forces in December 2015 as he was demanding his unpaid holiday allowance. Beyond the apparent excessive use of force, the incident raises questions as to why state security forces were on call to protect the plantation instead of the company’s own security personnel? Is violence a common occurrence on the plantation which necessitates the presence of state police?
In response to the fatal shooting, Eagle High’s spokesperson once again placed blame on the deceased, stating that he was “drunk and violent, poured petrol everywhere and threatened to set fire, and he had with him a bow and arrow” when nearby state security forces tried to incapacitate him. Eagle High also claims to have paid “thousands of dollars” to his family in compensation for this unfortunate incident.
These various reports prove that Eagle High and Rajawali do not care about the law or welfare of their employees, often taking advantage and bullying its employees who do not know any better. Employees who dare speak up are terminated or even worse, killed.