Indonesia: Riau Police drops probe into 11 firms linked to forest fires

Rizal Harahap The Jakarta Post 20 Jul 16;

Riau Police reportedly have dropped investigations into 11 companies allegedly involved in forest fires in 2015, underlining the poor law enforcement of last year’s catastrophe that claimed five lives.

The 11 companies were among 18 accused of having been involved in the fires. While two other companies have seen their cases brought to court, six other companies are still being investigated.

Following the termination of the 11 investigations, the Riau Forest Rescue Network (Jikalahari) environmental group has called for the dismissal of the Riau Police chief.

Jikalahari coordinator Woro Supartinah said a termination of investigation ( SP3 ) on the cases was issued in January. But, it was only unveiled recently when some environmental activists visited Riau Police headquarters seeking an update on the cases.

“It turned out that only two cases have been brought to court and six others are being investigated by Riau Police,” Woro told the media on Tuesday.

The 11 companies that saw their investigations terminated operate industrial plantation forests (HTI) and oil palm plantations. The industrial forest companies are PT Bumi Daya Laksana, PT Siak Raya Timber, PT Perawang Sukses Perkasa Industri, PT Hutani Sola Lestari, PT Bukit Raya Pelalawan and KUD Bina Jaya Langgam.

The five oil palm plantation companies are PT Pan United, PT Riau Jaya Utama, PT Alam Lestari, PT Parawira and PT Hibrindo Inti Langgam.

Meanwhile, the six companies that are being investigated include PT Ruas Utama Jaya, PT Decter Timber Perkasa Industry, PT Suntara Gajapati, PT Rimba Lazuardi, PT Sumatera Riang Lestari and PT Wana Subur Sawit Indah. The first five companies are involved in HTI while the last one is engaged in the oil palm sector.

“Only the cases involving PT Langgam Into Hibrindo and PT Palm Lestari Makmur have been brought to court, however, the defendants are individuals and not corporate players. The court verdicts were also quite disappointing as two of the four defendants were acquitted,” Woro said.

She recalled millions of Riau residents, who were exposed to severe haze from the September 2015 forest fires, were excited by the prospect of Riau Police undertaking investigations into the alleged involvement of 18 companies in the fires.

The public also appreciated the work of the Riau Police for successfully handling forest fire cases in 2013 and proving the involvement of PT Adei Plantation and Industry and PT National Sago Prima.

“Terminating the investigations into the 11 companies has really disappointed the Riau people. It did not at all align with their sense of justice, especially after five residents died from the [fires’ resulting] air pollution and millions of others suffered respiratory problems,” Woro said.

She demanded President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian to evaluate the performance of Riau Police chief Brig. Gen. Supriyanto.

Woro claimed the Riau Police chief went against the President’s instructions, who in January ordered the National Police to take stern action against forest fire perpetrators.

However, “the SP3’s issuance to the companies indicates a lack of willingness by the Riau Police chief in enforcing the law on forest fire cases, which clearly contributes to environmental degradation in Riau,” added Woro.

Jikalahari deputy coordinator Made Ali said the Riau Police’s attempt to cover up the investigation terminations raised questions, particularly after the police also issued SP3s to 14 companies suspected to be involved in illegal logging in 2006.

Made suspected the cover-up attempt of the cases was the work of a cabal inside the force.

“The new police chief should pay special attention to this issue to prove his determination in eradicating the ‘mafia’s’ infiltration in law enforcement agencies,” said Made.

Separately, Riau Police chief spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Guntur Aryo Tejo acknowledged that Riau Police had terminated investigations into the 11 companies. “The cases were discontinued because of insufficient evidence,” Guntur told The Jakarta Post.

Govt to Evaluate Evidence in Forest Fires Cases After Police Drop Investigations
Novi Setuningsih & Eko Prasetyo Jakarta Globe 22 Jul 16;

Jakarta. Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the government will evaluate the data or evidence on land burning cases after the Riau Police called off investigations against 15 of the 18 companies allegedly involved in the 2015 forest fires.

According to Kalla, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry – which initially reported the cases – will respect the law.

"It is legal matter. The government will follow the law, but we also appreciate the law by evaluating what had happened. [We will see] whether the data and evidence submitted is like that [not strong enough]," Kalla said in Riau on Friday (22/07).

Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya earlier also called for an evaluation of the data, and she instructed the ministry's law enforcement directorate general to study the issue.

She said there was an agreement between the ministry and the Riau Police chief. The ministry can impose administrative sanctions, while the police have the authority to launch a criminal prosecution.

Riau Police economic and special crimes director Sr. Comr. Rivai Sinambela explained that the decision to drop the investigation against the 15 companies was made for lack of evidence, whereas the land is still part of a dispute.

"As it did not fulfill any elements of intent or negligence, we have decided to stop the case," Rivai said recently.

Of the 18 companies, 11 are conducting their businesses in the industrial plantations sector, while four others are involved in palm plantations.

Three other companies that have been taken to court are Langgam Inti Hibrindo, Palm Lestari Makmur and Wahana Subur Sawit. However, the court decided not to proceed with the cases.