Three palm oil companies in Indonesia’s West Papua province are taking legal action against local officials after their permits were revoked for a series of violations, according to a Mongabay report on 3 September.

The lawsuits had prompted concern that other firms whose permits had also been revoked would follow suit, the report said.

The three companies — PT Inti Kebun Lestari (IKL), PT Papua Lestari Abadi (PLA), and PT Sorong Agro Sawitindo (SAS) — were taking legal action against the head of Sorong district, Johny Kamuru, Mongabay wrote, and IKL had also named the chief of the Sorong investment agency, Salmon Samori, as a respondent in its lawsuit.

The companies were seeking a reversal of the revocation, which had locked them out of a combined 90,031ha of land in Sorong district, an area larger than New York City, the report said.

They said the government’s decision to revoke their licenses had harmed them, and had asked the state administrative court in Jayapura, the capital of neighbouring Papua province, to annul the revocation, Mongabay wrote.

Sorong’s district head said he revoked the permits on 27 April after a province-wide audit found a series of violations by plantation license holders, including violations of the rights of Indigenous communities, according to the report.

The government had invited the companies to a discussion to explain the violations and give them an opportunity to address the issues so they could continue with their existing operations, Mongabay wrote.

However, the companies had failed to follow up on the resolutions from the meeting, and instead had issued a letter of protest, Kamuru said.

“We haven’t had the chance to respond to the protest letter yet, [but] they [the companies] had contacted their lawyers [to file lawsuits in court],” he was quoted as saying.

Kamuru had received widespread support from civil society groups, Indigenous peoples, and a national parliamentarian, who had all condemned the lawsuits, the report said.

A coalition of 25 NGOs had also backed the Sorong district government, Mongabay wrote, saying the decision to revoke the palm oil licenses was the right one to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples.

An online petition to get the three companies to drop their lawsuits had been signed by nearly 33,000 supporters as of 2 September, the report said.