If we cannot afford it anymore, we will just shut it down
Andi Syamsuddin Arsyad, owner of Jhonlin Group
HE is more popular as Haji Isam. Andi Syamsuddin Arsyad (42) from Makassar is the boss of Jhonlin Group at Tanah Bumbu, South Kalimantan. During the last presidential elections, Isam caused an uproar because the National Mandate Party (PAN) of South Kalimantan decided to support Joko Widodo-Ma’ruf Amin.
Central PAN’s officials accused Isam, one of the party’s administrators, of leading the betrayal. PAN was a supporter of Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga Uno, while Isam was the deputy treasurer of the Jokowi-Ma’ruf campaign team. “It was slander,” he told Tempo in a telephone conversation on September 6.
Isam’s business thrives along with the rising price of coal from Kalimantan since 2005. By mid-2017, Jhonlin Group, established in 2011, tapped the plantation sector. Through Jhonlin Batu Mandiri, Isam works on 20,000 hectares of sugar cane plantations on a land owned by the Tina Orima Production Forest Management Unit in Bombana, Southeast Sulawesi.
There, Isam also built a sugar factory with an estimated total investment of Rp3.89 trillion. He was one of the 10 entrepreneurs appointed by the government to build sugar cane plantations and sugar mills to achieve self-sufficiency in sugar. “Therefore, my business is only to help the government,” he told Tempo by telephone on August 27.
The problem is that none sugar cane plantations were mention in the 2014-2034 Bombana regional spatial plan. The same with the Long-Term Forest Management Plan for Tina Orima, which is usually changed every 10 years—there was no mention of using the land as sugar cane plantations. The two documents state that the 20-hectare land is used for grazing fields and gold mines.
The mining is managed by Sultra Utama Nickel. In March 2019, Isam acquired the company to become part of Jhonlin Group. Until the end of August 2019, Sultra was still seen dredging gold in Bombana.
What attracted you to invest in Bombana?
I’m sorry, I do not understand about sugar canes. I just want to help the government. I don’t know how this happened—I’m just suddenly here. Answering this question would be wrong, but so is not answering. What should I do?
In your opinion, how profiting is it to invest there?
For this, it would be better to ask God.
How many years until turnover, do you estimate?
The directors have more knowledge about this. If we cannot afford it anymore, we will just shut it down.
According to a research by the Bureau for the Study of Tobacco and Fibrous Plants (Balittas) as well as our own findings, the soil there is not ideal for sugar canes.
I told you before, I knew nothing about it. I’m just suddenly here.
Were you persuaded by Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman?
I cannot answer that. All I know is that I am helping the government plant sugar canes and build factories. If it ends up disastrous, we will just have to face it. I will not blame anyone.
What about the sugar import quota that the industry ministry promised you?
I never heard of that. You can check with the industry ministry, we never asked for an import quota. Let’s not slander.
We got the information from Jhonlin directors. They said that if they don’t profit from sugar canes, they will be given import quotas as incentives.
I never interfere in this matter. I was only there once.
How close are you with Amran Sulaiman?
Is that an appropriate question for me to answer? My relationship with him is personal and is unrelated to his job.
We found that there are still gold mining activities.
Then you better report it so it won’t spread everywhere. I have no idea about gold. I have only been there once this year. What we are working on is purely sugar cane—no business with gold.
What about sugar cane plantations that are not in accordance with the regional spatial plan?
You can ask that to the governor.
The people who have been living on that land for years were evicted by the police. What do you have to say about that?
You should also ask about their legality. How would you feel if you have a house certificate, but other people are living in it?
By the way, is it true that you and Minister Amran Sulaiman are cousins?
We are the offspring of Prophet Adam. The some holds for you, if you are Muslim then we are the grandchildren of Prophet Adam.