Indonesia: Ministry Says Forest Law Aims at Big Operators

Stephanie Hendarta & Marco Puguh Jakarta Globe 11 Jul 13;

The Forestry Ministry has defended a new law that critics claim fails to criminalize the setting of forest fires and reduces punishment for illegal logging, saying it is focused on large-scale, systematic destruction.

Sumanto, a spokesman for the Forestry Ministry, told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday that the Law on Preventing and Eradicating Forest Destruction, passed on Tuesday, would focus on tackling organized forest destruction, while the issue of forest fires would still be dealt with under the 1999 Forestry Law.

He added that the government was optimistic about the new law, which was originally conceived in 2002.

“The new law is extraordinary. … Hopefully it will make law enforcement for forest crimes more effective and more synergistic. We are hoping to get more commitment from everyone, including people from rural areas within the forests, the police to government officials,” Sumanto said.

“While the issue of forest fires is not mentioned in the new legislation, the punishment for starting a forest fire will still be dealt with under other environmental legislation.”

The new law has also raised eyebrows over the fact that prescribed punishments for certain forestry crimes have been cut. The maximum prescribed sentence for illegal logging, for instance, has been cut from 10 years under the 1999 law to five years under the new law, according to the House of Representatives website.

But Sumanto said the new law was actually stricter in penalizing violators.

“The new law is no way more permissive of violators than the 1999 one. We are actually implementing harsher sentences in the new law. For illegal loggers, we have put down the minimum sentence duration, something that the old law did not have,” Sumanto said.

“Under the new law, an illegal logger can receive a minimum sentence of four years, along with a fine that can go from Rp 4 billion to Rp 14 billion [$401,000 to $1.4 million]. Additionally, the fine for the mastermind of the operation can go as high as Rp 1 trillion,” Sumanto said.

The 1999 law, however, had already prescribed a minimum sentence for illegal logging and other offenses.

Some environmental organizations have expressed doubt about the comprehensiveness of the new legislation, which has excluded mention of the protection of indigenous groups with ancestral claims to certain patches of forest, regulation of forest boundaries by the ministry as well as recently debated issues such as forest fires and illegal wildlife trafficking.

“I’m worried that the new legislation can be used against the unprotected indigenous groups,” said Nazir Foead, conservation director at the World Wildlife Fund.

“Previously, all of the forests in Indonesia were owned and controlled by the Forestry Ministry but a Constitutional Court decision in 2012 overruled the ministry’s claim. Now, the ministry is only allowed to control forests that are not regulated by indigenous ancestral laws.

“If an indigenous group can prove that they have lived in the area for generations, they are allowed to manage and log responsibly and independently. The new legislation has not accommodated this issue.”

Proponents of the new law maintain that in addition to harsher deterrence methods and better coordination between law enforcement agencies, the law will also attempt to differentiate large, organized logging activities from small-scale, noncommercial logging for household purposes, as well as target bureaucrats who fail to hold up the law.

Yuyun Indradi, a forest campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said the key to the law’s effectiveness was its enforcement by the authorities.

“In order for the new law to work, the government will need to take assertive measures, such as properly monitoring companies that are logging in a certain forested area,” he said.

“The government cannot be hesitant in acting firm when penalizing violators of these forestry laws.”

No comments:

Post a Comment