Rusli Zainal: I just sign, have no idea of forestry

EoF News / 18 July 2008

PEKANBARU (EoF News)— In an interview with a national newspaper this week, Rusli Zainal, incumbent Riau Governor who currently non-active and resigned for running for the Gubernatorial Election this year, insisted that he had no much knowledge of 10 Annual Work Plan (RKT) permits he had signed allowing forest clearing operation by timber companies in the province.

Koran Tempo daily reported today (17/7/2008) that Rusli Zainal who is now a governor candidate/contestant from Golkar Party, said he just signed the documents needed by timber companies to clear natural forest as his subordinates asked him to do so.

The daily on Monday (14/7/2008) cited dossier of Pelalawan District Head Azmun Jaafar’s corruption case in November 2007 which probed by Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) where witnesses mentioned the involvement of Rusli in signing RKTs for 10 companies.

EoF learned that RKT legalization would allow a concession holder of pulpwood plantation company to clear natural forest for one-year operation. RKT is procedural if RKU (general work plan) and RKL (five-year work plan) issued by Minister of Forestry had been attained by the concession holder.

On a testimony of the Azmun’s trial presented by Frederik Suli, the former section head of Riau Forestry Service, two weeks ago, it is disclosed that Rusli Zainal had signed 10 RKTs during his service as governor on forests that not allowed by the laws for pulpwood conversion, Koran Tempo reported Monday (14/7/2008).

Rusli on testimony before KPK investigators on 13 November 2007 admitted that he might issue at least RKTs for 10 companies in 2004, Koran Tempo reported. Rusli insisted he signed the permits following recommendation by his subordinate, Riau Forestry Service head at that time, Syuhada Tasman. 

Syuhada Tasman, former Forestry Service Head and now named suspect of corruption case on logging license issuance by KPK, told the KPK investigators on 13 November 2007 that Rusli instructed him to grant RKTs for the 10 companies.

Syuhada told the Governor in the end of 2003 that there were proposals submitted by 10 forestry companies which desperately need approval from the provincial forestry service for their clearing operations.

He told his boss that he did not want to sign the permits due to verification on the license by Ministry of Forestry remains unaccomplished. 

"RKT is routine one. In addition, we need accelerating pulpwood plantation development. Please, prepare it. If necessary, I will sign [them],” the governor told Syuhada at that time as quoted by the former official, Koran Tempo reported first two weeks ago (3/7/2008). Then Rusli himself signed the permits despite the regulations only authorize the Forestry Service Head to do so.

KPK prosecutor, Riyono, said Rusli allegedly is against his authority as a governor by signing the RKTs.  Minister of Forestry’s Decree Number 6652/KPTS-II/2002 dated 4 July 2002 stipulates that the authority to sign RKT is on Riau Forestry Service head, he said, Koran Tempo reported (14/7/2008).

Rusli denied

In countering the issue, Rusli Zainal told the daily this week that he only signed the permits, while on technical matters is only apprehended by his subordinates such as the Forestry Service Head.

Rusli denied that he had no authority to approve the RKT proposals. “It cannot be like that. Because there is another regulation stipulating that if the province forestry service’s head does not legalize it, I also don’t legalize it, then within 30 days it would be legal automatically. What kind of bargaining I have?” he told Koran Tempo (17/7/2007).

When asked why he decided to sign the RKTs, Rusli told Tempo, “I just do/perform/run my duty as public service. These RKTs are service given to companies since there are licenses issued. They [subordinates] who know the field, I signed them [but]  had no idea,” he said.

Meanwhile, Frederick Suli on the testimony on Azmun’s trial two weeks ago said that RKT issuance by Rusli could be against the law as the logging operations occur in natural forests that protected from clearing for its highly potential trees, and operations are conducted without estimation/measure on the ground, the daily reported.

The companies that earned RKTs permit issued by Rusli Zainal are: CV Bhakti Praja Mulya (APRIL),  PT Selaras Abadi Utama (APRIL), CV Tuah Negeri (APRIL), CV Mutiara Lestari (APRIL), CV Putri Lindung Bulan (APRIL), PT Merbau Pelalawan Lestari (APRIL), PT Rimba Mutiara Permai (APRIL), PT Mitra Taninusa Sejati (APRIL), PT Satria Perkasa Agung (APP), and PT Mitra Hutani Jaya (APP).

Take to the court

At least a hundreds of protesters on Wednesday (16/7/2008) from NGOs and community group allied in Gerram staged rallies and marches to Riau Governor Office, the Riau Police Office and the provincial Prosecutors Office.

The demonstrators come from Jikalahari, Walhi Riau, Amar, and Segera urged the government to take persons involved in illegal logging and forest crimes in the province to the court.

“We will urge the head of Riau Prosecutors Office to resign if he is not serious in tackling illegal logging prosecution,” Johnny Setiawan Mundung, director executive of Walhi Riau and coordinator of action, told the press in sidelines of rally.

The probe to 14 timber and pulp companies, affiliated to APP and APRIL, by Riau Police is still at stalemate at examination on dossiers by the Prosecutors Office, where the latter has returned them to police for improvement three times.

Yesterday, Riau Police investigator, Iskandar Siregar, said that the police submitted again the dossiers to the Riau Prosecutors Office and some district prosecutors offices, Tribun Pekanbaru daily reported today (18/7/2008).