Wednesday, 21 May 2008

SE Sulawesi agency seizes illegal timber from 3 ships

SE Sulawesi agency seizes illegal timber from 3 ships

Hasrul , The Jakarta Post , Kendari Wed, 05/21/2008

Authorities in Southeast Sulawesi foiled an attempt Monday to smuggle 400 cubic meters of illegal timber out of Lapuko port, South Konawe regency.

The Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA) said the confiscated timber, already cut and processed, was loaded onto three ships identified as the KM Bunga Hariadi, the KM Surya Perangi and the KM Sinar Jaya.

Tajudin, 30, a crew member from the KM Bunga Hariadi, said the timber was to be shipped to Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara. He said the ship had smuggled timber to the same destination twice before.

BKSDA officials said the ships' transportation and cargo documents were likely forgeries, and suspected the timber originated from the Tanjung Peropa wildlife conservation area in South Konawe.

Sollu Batara, head of the BKSDA team, said there were irregularities in the documents obtained from the ships.

In neighboring Muna regency, members of a local military command recently confiscated 1,249 logs believed to be from illegal logging. They included local bayam and uris tree species and sandalwood.

"Thanks to information from the public we were able to seize the timber from illegal logging activities at the Wakorumba forest conservation area," said Col. MP Hutagalung, chief of the military command.

The military also arrested two people involved in the incident. One of them was identified as a civil servant at the Muna forestry office.

"We have turned them over to the authorities," Hutagalung said.

Under Law No. 41/1999, illegal logging offenders face up to five years in jail and a fine of Rp 10 billion (US$1.1 million) if found guilty.

Illegal logging has spiraled out of control in South Konawe and Muna regencies over the last eight years.

"Surveillance is lax and those behind the crimes have never been prosecuted despite the heavy timber traffic in these regions," said Alimudin, a member of the Swami environmental group.

Swami says its investigations implicate local officials with involvement in organized illegal logging syndicates.

"We have reported illegal logging cases to the local prosecutor's office but nothing has been resolved yet," Alimudin said.

He estimated 70 percent of the 400,000 hectares of teak forests in Muna have been cut down.

"Disasters of dramatic proportions could likely occur in the two areas if forest destruction continues unabated," he said.