Burning cases closed by police, environmentalists moan

EoF News / 22 July 2016
Police billboard in burned area of APRIL’s timber supplier PT Bukit Raya Pelalawan, where young palm oil trees found on the spot. Photo ©Eyes on the Forest, October 2015

An environmentalist group urged the Indonesian Police Chief to review performance of Riau Police Chief for closing 11 out of 18 cases of companies investigated of allegedly intentional burnings hitting the province last year.

At a press conference, Jikalahari (Riau Forest Rescue NGO Network) said Tuesday here that the group revealed 11 corporates that acquitted from burning allegation as Letter to Close Case issued by the Riau Police recently.

The Riau Police side defended that there were no sufficient evidence found during the probe of 11 companies, media reports said.

 “The termination of 11 burning cases involving corporates is extremely disappointing perceived Riau citizens,” said Woro Supartinah, coordinator of Jikalahari. She said that Riau Police Office ruined their own reputation in taking action against perpetrators of fire and land burnings despite in recent years they are successful in bringing them to justice.

The 11 companies are PT Bina Duta Laksana (APP), PT Siak Raya Timber (APRIL), PT Perawang Sukses Perkasa Industri (APP), PT Hutani Sola Lestari (APRIL), PT Bukit Raya Pelalawan (APRIL) and KUD Bina Jaya Langgam (APRIL) from pulpwood suppliers. While palm oil companies are PT Pan United, PT Riau Jaya Utama, PT Alam Lestari, PT Parawira  and PT Langgam Inti  Hibrindo.

In November three companies named suspects by the Riau Police. They are PT Palm Lestari Makmur (PLM), PT Langgam Inti Hibrindo (LIH) and PT Alam Sari Lestari (ASL).

Jikalahari said that they also found that two of 18 companies were still investigated, and other 2 firms would be tried in the court, they are PT Langgam Inti Hibrindo and PT Palm Lestari Makmur. The court only processed persons from corporate as suspects where manager of PT LIH acquitted by the court in Pelalawan District last month from burning allegation.

“This case closure does not give the justice for 5 Riau citizens who died due to polluting haze caused by corporate as well as for all people impacted by the haze,” Woro said.

Responding to Jikalahari’s concern, Director Special Crime Intelligence of Riau Police, Commissioner Rivai Sinambela, said Wednesday that they have conducted investigation procedurally and did not find much evidence of the 11 companies’ involvement in intentional burnings as they were suspected earlier. Most of burnt areas are those disputed by companies and communities as encroached areas, the police said.

Made Ali from Riau Corruption Trial denied the police’s statement saying that the cases of PT Adei Plantation and PT National Sago Prima that probed by police were identical as previous burning cases that ended in the court. “Responsibility of concession holders to secure the area from burning was also required by the Law, so they cannot hide,” Made added.

In the latest development, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry pledged to keep an eye on the case closure of 11 companies that allegedly involved in intentional burnings. Minister Siti Nurbaya said Thursday that they would learn facts behind the issuance of case closing order issued by the police.

"We delegate tasks, crime lawsuit is conducted by the National Police Chief. However, there are still administrative that handled by the Ministry. So I assign Director General of Law Enforcement to monitor and assist [this task],” she said as quoted as saying by Kompas daily.