Government promises

EoF News / 28 August 2006

The Indonesian Government promised its neighboring countries that haze problem caused by forest and land fires will be tackled by 2 September. In Riau, police detained 58 suspects for allegedly set fires, but none represented companies.

Reports said Minister of Environment Rachmat Witoelar unveiled three companies could be suspects for illegally open burning in Riau as also confirmed by Riau Governor Rusli Zainal. The companies are PTPN V, PT Torganda, and PT RAS.

The government held a meeting in Jakarta, Monday (28 Aug), to address the forest fires problems by inviting governors from several provinces that hit by choking haze. The Minister of Communication and Information, Sofyan Jalil, said the president does not want that his planned state visit to Singapore would be bothered by issue of haze and forest fires. and Riau Mandiri reported that four companies have been questioned by Riau Province Environmental Impact Management Agency (Bappedalda) Monday following their alleged involvement in fires on their respective concession. They are PT Inti Kamparindo, PT Padasa Enam Utama, PT Rimba Sarana Utama, and PT Multi Gambut Industries.

Maaruf Siregar, an official at Bappedalda, said that it takes time to probe suspected companies in forest and land fires crime since the authority also verifies the satellite detection finding to the field truth.

Following torrential rains pouring Riau province last weekend, hotspots detected as well as haze had been decreasing significantly. Choking haze that blanketed Riau province and blown to neighboring countries apparently reduce and turned to clear sky and bright sunlight. Despite this, Riau government is still cautious that hotspots would return to escalate.

From cabinet meeting tackling forest fires issue, Minister Sofyan Djalil said urgent efforts to extinguish fires will be prioritized in three Sumatran provinces, Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra. Water bombing by airplane and helicopter will be applied as well as effort to induce the rain when Hercules cargo aircraft deployed to Padang of West Sumatra to carry the water.

On the same occasion, Coordinating Minister for Public Welfare, Aburizal Bakries, said the government would make efforts to bring the perpetrators of fires to the court, whether they are traditional farmers or companies. Aburizal said 31 companies are allegedly involved in setting fires, but the government would not announce their identities due to further investigations are still needed.

Meanwhile, WALHI (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) criticized poor law enforcement as no legal action taken to perpetrators of forest fires in Riau. “Most of the companies have committed similar practice in previous years and never been brought to the justice. In Riau, for instance, PT Arara Abadi every year is always suspected to set forest and land fires inside its concession. It also happens to several associates of PT RAPP,” said Rully Syumanda, WALHI forest campaigner on its website today.

WALHI National Director Executive Chalid Muhammad said it is urgent to release a policy notifying that businesspeople should be responsible and be given sanction if fires occur inside their concession. He said the government and companies always blame to each other if the fires occur where eventually the traditional farmers would be the scapegoats.

Forestry Law number 41/1999 article 49 stipulates that ““ Holders of rights or licenses shall be responsible for forest fires occurring in their working area.” Besides, the Law 41/1999 article 50 clause 3 point d in connection with article 78 clause 3 also stipulates that people are not allowed to “burn forest.”

Gallery – Forest fires and water bombing