Government plans to open up the Mentawai islands for large-scale oil palm plantations using transmigrant labour have been around since the early 1990s. This is despite the fact that the island has been designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and is occupied by the local indigenous population. The most recent plan was in late 1996, when the Governor of West Sumatra approved plans for a 70 000 ha oil palm plantation in the buffer zone of the Siberut National Park by the company PT Citra Mandiri Widya Nusa -owned by ex-Employment Minister Abdul Latif. In 1998, about 30 students managed to break up a “consultation meeting” between local political representatives, national authorities and the oil palm sector. They entered the building and spoke directly to the audience. They said that many transmigration schemes have created problems with indigenous communities and that the government used such schemes as a Trojan horses to exploit natural resources and deforest. They also said that the authorities should immediately withdraw all operating permits from oil palm companies as they have caused conflict and damaged the cultural and natural environment of the islands. The head of transmigration for West Sumatra said that he understood the demonstrators’ position and declared the meeting officially closed. The demonstrators accepted his statement and dispersed straight away. Protests by Indonesian and international groups have persuaded Ministers in Jakarta to block these developments so far.