Forestry official censures license granted to probed company

EoF News / 05 February 2010

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PEKANBARU (EoF News)— Riau Police office had admitted that they had closed illegal logging probe in June 2009 which involved PT Ruas Utama Jaya, an Asia Pulp & Paper (APP)/ Sinar Mas Group (SMG) associated company, two months before annual forest clearing for the pulpwood supplier issued by the Ministry of Forestry.

While, Riau Province Forestry Service Head, Zulkifli Yusuf, regretted the decision made by the Ministry of Forestry to issue natural forest clearing to a company which probed by the police since 2007 for illegal logging allegation, Antara news agency reported last weekend (3/2/2010).

“PT RUJ [Ruas Utama Jaya] is still being probed by the Riau Police for alleged illegal logging. But, it’s not clear why the Ministry of Forestry granted forest clearing permit [to the company], said Zulkifli.

EoF understood that PT RUJ, an APP associated company, as one of 14 forestry companies in the province that massively investigated by the police since February 2007 for illegally cutting trees in areas where the pulpwood companies are prohibited to do so.

In December 2008, the Riau Police closed the cases for 13 companies following the testimony from the experts of the Ministry of Forestry that there was no evidence for the allegations, while only one that the police believed that should be further probed and prosecuted to the court. It is PT Ruas Utama Jaya, APP/SMG associated company located in peat Senepis forest which well known as home of Sumatran tigers in the province.

Zulkifli Yusuf said that he had submitted a letter to the Ministry urging not to issue the forest clearing license to PT RUJ as long as the case had definite status. But there was wide gap between him and Bejo Santoso, a director for industrial timber plantation development at the ministry, who finally issued the license for the company that then cut trees in deep peat natural forest.

Meanwhile, Director Research and Crime of Riau Police, Alexander Mandalika, admitted that his office had issued a SP3 letter to officially order close probe for PT RUJ in June 2009. 

“SP3 letter [an order to close case] for RUJ was issued in June 2009, and soon its RKT [annual cutting approval] was launched by the Ministry of Forestry in August,” Alexander Mandalika said.

He said that the police reckoned in 2008 that PT RUJ illegal logging case potentially to proceed to court. “But it cannot [proceed] due to similar reason from previous 13 cases which unconvincing to proceed to court and the Ministry of Forestry’s expert witness also considered the company not guilty,” the police officer said as quoted by Antara.

Environmental groups in Riau protested the termination for the 13 companies allegedly involving illegal logging and accused that the decision made due to pressure by powerful officials.

Former Riau Police Chief Sutjiptadi who launched anti-illegal logging campaign in 2007 was replaced in 2008 when the investigations for companies finally shut down by his successor, Hadiatmoko. Sutjiptadi now active in the Indonesian Police Headquarters as a non-job officer.