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04 Jan 2016
APP’s supplier acquits free over charge of burning 20,000 hectares peat

EoF News (PEKANBARU)— PT Bumi Mekar Hijau, an Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) timber supplier in South Sumatra, was cleared by panel of judges in Palembang district court last week from lawsuit filed by the Ministry of  Environment and Forestry to pay IDR 7.8 trillion (USD US$571 million) for environmental damage and recovery costs.

Parlas Nababan, the head of judges, said on final decision that there was no environmental damage caused by the burning as the land of concession in Ogan Komering Ilir district can be replanted by plantation. The judges rejected entirely lawsuit filed by the plaintiff and set the accused free. The court also ordered the Ministry to pay the cost of trial for IDR 10.2 million.

The Ministry would appeal against the decision as the Minister of Environment and Forestry, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, expressed her disappointment to media. "I am concerned and I reckon to take legal action till the optimal stage,” said Siti Nurbaya as quoted as saying by Detik.com on 30 December 2015.

Rasio Rido Sani, director general of the ministry’s law enforcement, said the government would appeal against the decision by Palembang District Court. “KLHK [the Ministry] views that the panel of judges rule out field and trial facts. By their own eyes the Judges looked up facts of burning where the company had no facilities and equipments to prevent and mitigate forest fires that PT BMH company must have,” Rasio told Detik.com on 4 January 2016.

Rasio said that the judges did not consider that each concession holder must be responsible for any fires inside their location. The administrative lawsuits against corporate setting fires have been conducted in Aceh to PT Kallista Alam and in Riau to PT National Sago Prima which the government won the both cases.

PT BMH, APP timber supplier that also involved in fires in 2015 when its license is suspended by the Ministry, faced the highest penalty sanctioned to corporate in forest fires in the country. But the company won and public especially netizens bullied the judge Parlas Nababan for his controversial decision and comment.

“We will appeal against this decision for the sake of people who impacted by land fires. Due to from the field and court, the land fires has been set on purpose. That’s why we will appeal,” reiterated Rasio.

Hadi Jatmiko from WALHI South Sumatra said that the court decision had shown that concern over environmental issues did not matter in the nation. “This obviously annuls commitment of President Joko Widodo to address seriously the problems of forest and peatland fires that he conveyed publicly in Indonesia and at international for a,” Hadi added as quoted as saying by mongabay.co.id.

Henri Subagiyo, Director Executive of Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL), said last week that the judges lacked of environmental law enforcement and likely ruled out the damages made by PT BMH.

''The panel of judges set up their own criteria which are not scientific, void [green house] emission and impacts to biodiversity,” Henri said as quoted as saying by Kompas daily (2 January 2016).

EoF reckons that the expert testimonies at the court revealed that there is intentional burning in district of Beyuku inside concession to prepare land for pulpwood plantation. The frequent fires in deep peatland believed to cause huge amount of greenhouse emission.



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EoF is a coalition of three local environmental organizations in Riau, Sumatra, Indonesia : WWF Indonesia's Tesso Nilo Programme, Jikalahari ("Forest Rescue Network Riau") and Walhi Riau (Friends of the Earth Indonesia). It was launched in December 2004 to investigate the state of Riau''s forests and the players who influence it.
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