KPK forestry inquiry heats up
The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Tue, 05/13/2008
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) questioned lawmakers Wowo Ibrahim of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and Syarfi Hutauruk of the Golkar Party on Monday, both members of the House of Representatives' Commission IV overseeing forestry and agriculture.
The graft body also grilled South Sumatra Public Works Agency head Dharma Dahlan.
The KPK previously named lawmakers Al Amin Nasution of the United Development Party (PPP) and Sarjan Taher of the Democratic Party, also members of Commission IV, as suspects in a bribery case. The two have been charged with accepting bribes to facilitate forest conversion approvals in Bintan, Riau Islands, and Banyuasin, South Sumatra, respectively.
Environmental activists said they expected the KPK's forest conversion investigation would not stop with Al Amin and Sarjan.
"Illegal land conversion has been going on for a long time in the country. A strong approach to law enforcement is really needed, especially since more than 50 million hectares of forest are severely damaged," said Elfian Effendi, executive director of environmental group Greenomics.
The current land conversion procedure enables corruption, he said.
The procedure generally requires any land conversion request to be recommended by the regional administration to the Forestry Minister. The minister requires approval from Commission IV before issuing a ministerial decree concerning the conversion.
KPK deputy head of prevention, Mohammad Jasin, said Monday the commission plans to study the current conversion procedure to look for any flaws that could lead to corruption.
Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Ka'ban said all approvals of land conversions were legitimate and KPK should not meddle in the legal decisions.
The minister's claim has drawn criticism from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi). "A ministerial decree is not the correct legal basis for a forest conversion. Under the law, the approvals should be made by government regulation," said Rully Syumandra, a Walhi campaigner.
Article 19 of the Forestry Law states the procedure for converting a forest's function and use should be based on a government regulation.
Rully said he hoped the KPK's current investigation into corruption in the forest conversion process would help save more than 120 million hectares of rain forest in Indonesia, the world's third-largest forestry country.
"If we can't do it through an ecological approach, maybe a corruption investigation will do," he said. (dre)