Indonesia: Lawmakers End Hearing on 2015 Forest Fires After Police Fail to Provide Answers

Alin Almanar Jakarta Post 27 Sep 16;

Jakarta. Lawmakers concluded a hearing to discuss last year's forest fires earlier than expected on Tuesday (27/09), after the police were apparently unable to provide detailed explanations for the termination of the investigation.

The members of the House of Representatives' special committee on land and forest fires summoned Riau Police chief Brig. Gen. Supriyanto over the termination of investigations into 15 plantation companies for alleged land burning in the province last year.

Having taken up his current post only after the police terminated the investigation earlier this year, Supriyanto stopped short of citing a lack of evidence as the reason for the termination warrants.

The police could apparently not comply with lawmakers' demands to provide details of the warrants, after it was earlier concluded that there had been irregularities.

"There's nothing left for us to dig. We couldn't have the police chief further explain about the matter," committee member Arsul Sani told reporters after the hearing.

The police terminated their investigations earlier this year after receiving reports of the cases in September 2015, when Brig. Gen. Dolly Bambang Hermawan was still the regional police chief.

Arsul admitted that the committee was unaware of the change but said it had not made a mistake in summoning Supriyanto instead of his predecessor.

"We invited the police as an institution. If the current police chief could give answers in detail, we could have dug deeper. But when he couldn't do so, we should understand that," the lawmaker said.

Riau was among several provinces in Sumatra and Kalimantan that experienced land and forest fires last year.

The fires blanketed parts of the country as well neighboring states in choking haze.

Riau Fire Probes Dropped on 'Flawed Testimony' House Committee Finds
Alin Almanar Jakarta Globe 28 Sep 16;

Jakarta. A working committee at the House of Representatives tasked with investigating terminated police probes into Riau wildfires has found the cases were dropped on the testimony of unqualified experts and marred by conflicts of interest.

Investigations into 18 plantation companies who allegedly burnt land in the province began late last year, with police eventually issuing warrants to terminate probes into 15 of the companies earlier this year.

Citing a lack of evidence in these cases, police defended the decision amid protests from environmental activists and provisional conclusions made by lawmakers that the cases had been bungled and were rife with irregularities.

Asul Sani, a member of the House of Representatives' working committee on land and forest fires, pointed to issues with experts invited by police to testify in the cases.

"The expert witnesses explained about land and forest fires. But the educational backgrounds of some of them are in public health," Arsul said on Tuesday (27/09), when the committee summoned Riau Police chief Brig. Gen. Supriyanto.

Other witnesses include officials from the Riau Environment Agency which could create a conflict of interest, he said.

"The agency has indeed been tasked with overseeing the plantation companies all this time. So, if the officials say they have found recurring misdeeds their work would be called into question as well," Arsul said.

Land and forest fires are an annual issue in Sumatra and Kalimantan, with last year's fires causing choking haze across the western side of the country, Singapore and Malaysia. This disaster prompted the formation of the working committee last month.

The committee summoned Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya last week and is set to summon representatives from the plantation companies as well as expert witnesses in the terminated police investigations at upcoming hearings.

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