Personal note: This is the same Minister who helped the most infamous illegal logger walk free from court a year or so ago.The Ministry of Forestry's real name should be The Ministry of Logging, Legal or Otherwise.
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, Pekanbaru, Riau 24th December
The Forestry Ministry has cautiously welcomed a decision by Riau Police to stop investigations into 13 forestry companies allegedly responsible for illegally logging 2 million cubic meters of forest, asking police to continue looking into firm owners' actions.
Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban said his office respected the police decision to issue a Letter of Order to Stop Investigations (SP3) into the companies.
"However, we hope the legal action taken again the businessmen (from the firms) continues," he said to Antara in Jakarta on Tuesday.
"It is still possible that the businessmen could be named as suspects in the (illegal logging) case."
Kaban said the 13 companies did not violate the Forestry Law because they secured business permits from the government.
The ministry's director general for forest protection and natural conservation, Darori, also defended the police's decision to cease investigations.
"From the beginning, there was a misunderstanding about the cases. By the time police 'visited' the forest sites, the companies were already on their way to replanting it back to normal," he said.
Riau Police Chief Brig. Gen. Hadiatmoko and Riau Provincial High Court Chief Suroso announced Monday the issuance of the SP3 into the 13 companies, who are all affiliated with massive pulp and paper firms PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) and PT Indah Kiat Pulp and Paper (KIPP).
Hadiarmoko said expert witnesses from the State Ministry of the Environment claimed the 13 companies had not violated the environmental law, with experts from the Forestry Ministry insisting the companies' action had been legitimate due to permits they obtained from the government.
"The decision to issue the SP3 was not my own choice. That was based on explanations from the government's expert witnesses. Basically, I would agree with the investigation if the logs were taken from illegal activities, but the experts say there actions were legal," he said.
Despite the SP3, police will continue their investigations into PT Ruas Utama jaya.
"It is the only company that does not have permit from the government," he added.
Hadiatmoko also denied accusations that the SP3 was issued under pressure from the logging firms.
"There was no intervention from the firms. It is clearly the result of law enforcement. I promise once we get new evidence, we will reopen the case," he said.
"I will be ready for dismissal if I'm wrong."
Forest watchdog Greenomics Indonesia said the police needed to publicly explain their reasoning behind the issuance of the SP3.
"Riau Police need to provide information to the public so they can understand the reasons behind the SP3. Then, they can deal with each of the groups involved in the decision," Greenomics executive director Elfian Effendi said Tuesday.
Rizal Harahap contributed to the story from Pekanbaru.