Saturday, 27 December 2008

Ministry Urges Passage of Forestry Bill

December 26, 2008 Jakarta Globe Fidelis E. Satriastanti

Ministry Urges Passage of

Forestry Bill

The Ministry of Forestry hopes that a bill on illegal logging that would empower law enforcers to deal with errant investors and corrupt officials can be passed next year, a ministry official said on Friday.

“The bill is intended to clamp down on offenders in the forestry sector,” said Awriya Ibrahim, director for investigations and forest protection at the ministry.

Awriya said the bill would extend to investors and officials who turn a blind eye to violations.

“It is pretty hard to deal with investors who break the law, but we hope that the new bill can help us bring them to justice,” he said.

According to the 1999 Law on Forestry, violators face a maximum of 15 years in prison. A minimum sentence, however, is not specified.

Yuyun Kurniawan, a forest research coordinator from the non-governmental organization Titian Foundation, said the bill provides minimum jail terms for forestry-related offenses.

“The current law on forestry provides only a maximum jail term for illegal loggers,” he said. “The judges are limited by that, so we cannot blame them if offenders get away with light sentences.”

“A judge could sentence a violator to two or three months in prison even if prosecutors ask for six years,” Yuyun said.

Awriya said the government has already handed the bill over to the House of Representatives.

“We are now waiting for their next step,” he said. “We hope that the process can be finalized next year, but that is up to them.”

He added that the bill would complement the current forestry law instead of rendering it useless.

Darmawan Liswanto of the Orangutan Conservation Services Program, who was involved in the drafting of the bill, said the emphasis of the bill was on the empowerment of civilian investigators and the streamlining of bureaucracy.

“The upcoming law on illegal logging would give civilian investigators more authority to report straight to prosecutors without having to go through the police,” Darmawan said.

He said that under the current forestry law, civilian investigators have to report to the police if they want to investigate further.

“Such a setup extends the whole process because the police are not as familiar with the cases as the civilian investigators,” he said. “The proposed bill provides a mechanism that can help the police finish their investigations faster.”

He said that the drafting of the bill started in 2005, but progress was slow.