Friday, 2 May 2008

Timber company denies illegal logging activities

Timber company denies illegal logging activities

Rizal Harahap , The Jakarta Post , Pekanbaru Wed, 04/30/2008 1:10 PM The Archipelago

A timber company in Riau objected to charges that the thousands of logs discovered by Pelalawan Police in its concession area originated from illegal logging activities.

A lawyer representing CV Alam Lestari timber firm, Juniver Girsang, said the logs impounded by police had accompanying legal documents issued by authorized agencies.

"The logs were part of the remaining stock from the 2006 production year, and according to our working plan, which was the basis for felling the trees, had been authorized by the Riau Forestry Office," Juniver told the media in Pekanbaru on Tuesday.

He stressed that CV Alam Lestari had paid forestry resource taxes amounting to Rp 2.14 billion (approximately US$237,000) and reforestation fees of $1.29 million for the 23,000 cubic meters of timber in police custody since April 18.

"Our client paid its dues for the timber, but cannot use it because of restrictions in forestry operations in Riau since 2007," he said.

Juniver played down the controversy surrounding the forestry permit issued by the Pelalawan regent in January 2003 to CV Alam Lestari to manage a concession area spanning 3,300 hectares, despite the fact it violated a ministerial decree prohibiting regents from issuing forestry licenses from June 2002.

"If it's not legitimate, why did the local forestry office not point it out when the company applied for a license? There was also no problem with the timber tax and reforestation funds. Bear in mind that each and every permit held by CV Alam Lestari has never been revoked and is still valid and binding," said Juniver.

To settle the issue of the validity of the timber, Juniver said his office would hand over all disputed documents to the Pelalawan Police.

"Perhaps the police have not yet examined the documents thoroughly. We will ask them to halt investigations and release the timber so that it may be used by the company," he said.
Juniver said he was considering legal efforts to make up for the inconvenience his client had been through as a result of the production lull.

"The agency that issued the permit should also take responsibility. So far the company has been disadvantaged because it can't operate, even though it has the relevant permits and has spent a lot of money for them," he said.

Pelalawan Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. I Gusti Ketut Gunawa acknowledged police had not yet studied the documents because they had been retained by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in Jakarta.

According to Gunawa, the documents have been withheld by the KPK in connection with a graft case involving the Pelalawan regent for alleged bribery and permit issuance.
"We will coordinate with the KPK to get the documents, to use as evidence for summoning people and naming suspects later," he said.

Separately, the executive director of the Riau office of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), Jhoni Setiawan Mundung, said the timber discoveries in Pelalawan were proof the government never conducted field observations when issuing forestry licenses.
"It turned out that the volume of timber seized by police amounted to 23,000 cubic meters. This shows that license issuance was based only on deals over the table, instead of observing the exact number of logs in the field," he said.

Mundung urged the police and the KPK to investigate alleged collusion between the company and agency that issued the timber license, due to claims from both parties of not knowing the exact volume of timber.

He also asked police and the KPK to examine not just the officials and owners of the company. "I believe there are still many more people involved," he said.