Indonesia threatens DiCaprio over Sumatra trip

Leonardo DiCaprio with a Sumatran orangutan. Source: Twitter

The government in Jakarta has threatened to deport Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio after the Oscar winner made critical statements about the country’s palm oil industry.

The environmental campaigner arrived in Indonesia in late March from Japan and posted a picture on Instagram highlighting the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation’s plans with Indonesian partners to develop a “mega-fauna sanctuary” in the Leuser forest ecosystem. Palm-oil plantations, mining, logging and other developments, endangering Sumatran elephants, orangutans, rhinos and tigers, have ravaged the lowland national park in Sumatra.

“The expansion of palm oil plantations is fragmenting the #forest and cutting off key elephant migratory corridors, making it more difficult for elephant families to find adequate sources of food and water,” DiCaprio posted online.

“A world-class biodiversity hotspot… but palm oil expansion is destroying this unique place,” he wrote online.

The Titanic star’s presence in the archipelago does not appear to have gone down well with the authorities in Jakarta.

“If there are statements that discredit the government and the interests of Indonesia, he could be deported,” immigration director general Ronny Sompie told Republika. He referred to the actor’s tourist visa, saying it limited his activities to “excursions”.

“If he is in Indonesia for other purposes, by engaging in activities that disrupt public order and harm the interests of Indonesia, immigration authorities are ready to deport him,” said the minister.

DiCaprio, however, had already left Sumatra, although the authorities say they may ban him from re-entering the country.

”In terms of [his tourist] visa and immigration permit, Leonardo DiCaprio did not do anything wrong: he entered and left Indonesia legally. But we still investigate,” said Heru Santoso, an immigration department spokesperson. “If DiCaprio’s posting in his social media can be categorised as incitement or provocation, we can blacklist him from coming back to Indonesia.”

Star Wars actor Harrison Ford was threatened with deportation from Indonesia in 2013 for “harassing state institutions” after interviewing the then forestry minister about illegal deforestation.

DiCaprio’s foundation, established in 1998, will partner with conservationist Rudi Putra to develop a wildlife sanctuary in the 6.5-million-acre Leuser ecosystem, constructing barriers, training wildlife patrols and rangers and reporting habitat destruction.

The actor has been in Asia to promote his Oscar-winning role in The Revenant which opened in China and Japan last month.

Palm oil is a multibillion-dollar industry, with almost every major food manufacturer using it in their products but large areas of Indonesian and Malaysian rain forests have been burned for plantations.

Indonesia and Malaysia produce more than 80 per cent of the world’s palm oil.