Indonesia: Police Name 24 Individuals, 1 Corporation Suspects Over Riau Fires

Ezra Sihite Jakarta Globe 6 Jul 13;

Twenty-four individuals and one corporation have been named suspects over their alleged roles in starting fires in Riau, Sumatra, that have ravaged forests and blanketed neighboring countries Singapore and Malaysia in hazardous haze.

“Until July 5, we have investigated numerous forest fire cases, and 24 individuals and one corporation have been named suspects,” Riau Police chief Brig.Gen.Condro Kirono reported to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono late on Friday during the launch of Yudhoyono’s official Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Condro said most suspects started the fires to clear land, adding that police have been questioning 14 witnesses from several firms suspected to be responsible for the blazes.

Conditions in Riau, he assured, are getting better following joint efforts by the police, the Indonesian Military (TNI), the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) and the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) to put out the fires.

Meanwhile, Andri Hari, the Indonesian ambassador to Singapore, said that air quality in the city-state has been steadily improving.

“Since July 2, the PSI level has dropped to below 50, which is much better than a few weeks ago,” he reported to Yudhoyono via Google Hangout.

Andri said that Singaporeans were quite surprised that the Indonesian government managed to get the fires under control in such a short time.

Yudhoyono said the nation’s quick response to the catastrophe proved Indonesia’s commitment to putting out the fires.

“I don’t like hearing that Malaysia and Singapore think that we are not acting seriously in [handling the fires]. We are very serious about it, and we are continuing to monitor the situation,” he said.

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