Monday, 3 December 2007

Soldiers convicted on illegal logging charges

Soldiers convicted on illegal logging charges

Nurni Sulaiman, The Jakarta Post, Balikpapan

At least 14 soldiers stationed at Tanjungpura military command in East Kalimantan have been convicted of involvement in illegal logging and sentenced to confinement.

The 14 were identified as First Sgt. DA, First Sgt. RU, Second Sgt. MI, Second Corporal IS, Chief Pvt. AR, Chief Pvt. SY, Chief Pvt. HU, Chief Pvt. MU, Chief Pvt. BW, Chief Pvt. AM, First Pvt. AA, First Pvt. TI, First Pvt. MT and Second Pvt. MW.

On Oct. 30 a military court found the soldiers and their commander guilty of releasing from custody illegal logging suspects and equipment in Simenggaris, on the border between East Kalimantan and Malaysia.

The length of the sentences are not known, however the military said the commander -- identified as Lt. CH -- received a dishonorable discharge from the military.

The 15 managed to capture an illegal logging gang, consisting of 30 people working for Malaysian businessmen Ali and Theo, in February this year in Simenggaris. They also seized six tractors, two cars and 10 chain saws.

"After the capture, the commander met with Malaysian businessmen for negotiation, where he may have been promised a big sum of money," said Tanjungpura military commander Maj. GR Situmeang on Saturday.

"In return for the promise the illegal logging perpetrators were released together with all their equipment on Feb. 28, 2007. This was a grave mistake for him because he should have reported the case to the police for investigation," Situmeang said.

Situmeang denied soldiers could be bribed easily because their small salaries were small, responding to a report.

"This is just a handful of soldiers out of thousands of thousands of military members. Economic hardship cannot be used to justify their illicit acts," he said. Instead, he attributed the misdeeds to the soldiers' "poor mentality".