Concern over auction of the Widi reserve at Sotheby's
Friday, December 09, 2022, 07:00 (GMT + 9)
Greenpeace experts are calling on the Indonesian government to cancel a controversial auction that sells 100 tropical islands to the highest bidder "before it causes the worst impacts."
Victor Gustaaf Manoppo, Director General of Marine Spatial Planning at the Indonesian Ministry of Fisheries, questioned whether the appropriate approvals had been granted to operate in the marine protected area in the “Coral Triangle” area of eastern Indonesia and conservationists have already have raised concerns about the auction of development rights to the network of coral atolls on Thursday at Sotheby's.
The event, which would invite the world's richest people to bid on the islands, "clearly violates the provisions of Indonesia's island and land conservation and management law," according to the NGO.
Sotheby's has described the pristine, uninhabited Widi reserve as "one of the most intact coral atoll ecosystems left on Earth", and bidding opens on Thursday. The sale price has not been indicated, but prospective buyers will be required to provide a deposit of US$100,000.
The Widi Reserve, the archipelago of coral atolls for sale in Indonesia is crucial to the surrounding ecosystem.
Charities, environmentalists and conservationists have criticized the decision, saying the rich are buying the world.
Indonesia´s Widi reserve - Photo: Sotheby´s
They have been left fearful that if one of the most intact coral atoll ecosystems left on Earth falls into the wrong hands, it could not only affect the coral reef, but also the 25,000 acres of rainforest, mangroves, lagoons, the local community and fishermen.
The sale of islands to non-Indonesians is prohibited under Indonesian law, so buyers must bid for shares in PT Leadership Islands Indonesia (PT LII), an Indonesian development company that has licensed the rights to build an eco-resort and luxury residential properties on the reserve. Included in the development plans is a private airstrip that can serve guests from destinations such as Bali, Jakarta and Cairns.
Manoppo said PT LII lacks the full approval of the central government to manage the reserve. “According to our information, PT LII currently does not have marine activity approval for the use of the waters of the Widi islands,” he told a news conference this week. "According to our legal regulations, the Widi Islands cannot be owned by foreigners and cannot be traded."
Conservationists say the development could isolate local communities and threaten their ecosystems, which include rainforests, mangroves, lagoons, lakes and coral reefs that support vast marine life.
Afdillah Chudiel, a Greenpeace activist, welcomed the Fisheries Ministry's stance, saying it should "act decisively to enforce the rules prohibiting the buying and selling of islands, which are public rights and state assets."
“The use of the Widi Reserve should prioritize the benefits for the island's coastal communities and traditional fishermen, not for a group of wealthy people and investors,” he said.
Interior Minister Tito Karnavian defended the sale, telling critics that the company PT LII was merely trying to obtain an equity investment. “The goal is not to auction off the Widi Reserve,” Karnavian said. "The goal is to attract foreign investors, so that's fine."
PT LII stated that the sale would take place as planned at Sotheby's Concierge Auctions in New York from December 8 to 14. It defended the sale saying in a statement: "What LII has are the exclusive licensing rights to conserve, sustainably develop and manage the Widi Reserve with more than 30 licenses, permits, approvals and government recommendations in hand."
Charlie Smith, executive vice president of Sotheby's Concierge Auctions, says the company's plan touches "less than 1% of the rainforest" and "0.005% of the entire reserve," with no-go areas for tourists and spaces that limit travel. number of invites.
Spread over 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) northeast of Bali, the Sotheby's representative described the islands as "an animal kingdom of epic proportions, home to hundreds of rare and endangered species, including blue whales, whale sharks and species yet to be discovered."
Greenpeace Indonesia and DFW Indonesia are urging the government to intervene and force the Sotheby's sale to be withdrawn.
The archipelago in Bali is home to 600 documented species of marine mammals, including endangered whale sharks and blue whales.