Saturday, 27 December 2008

Police chief criticized over logging case closure

Police chief criticized over logging case closure

Erwida Maulia, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta 27th December

Police came under fire Friday from lawmakers and activists for their decision to drop an investigation into 13 forestry companies accused of illegal logging activities in Riau province. Legislators said they would seek support from the House of Representatives to summon National Police chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri to clarify the heavily-criticized decision.

Alvin Lie, a member of the House's energy, mining and environment commission, said his faction would coordinate with both the forestry and legal affairs commissions, also at the national legislature, to develop the plan.

"This is a setback for the police force. This case has occurred while the country is in the middle of focusing efforts on combating illegal logging," he said to news portal.

Alvin, a senior politician from the National Mandate Party (PAN), said this was a major illegal logging case for police to be dropping.

"We will ask for transparency in handling the case and also for the police to take responsibility for it. If there is something wrong (during the investigation), we will demand the police reverse their decision."

Similar criticisms were lodged by fellow lawmakers Suswono, deputy head of the House's forestry commission and Patrialis Akbar, a member of the House's legal affairs commission.

Suswono said his commission would demand police fulfill their promise to combat widespread illegal logging in the country.

Patrialis said there was a plan to clarify the issue in a hearing with the National Police chief after the House ends its recess on Jan. 19.

On Monday, police in Riau issued a Letter of Order to Stop Investigation (SP3) into 13 out of 14 companies whose alleged logging activities had affected around two million cubic meters of forest across the province last year.

The companies are all affiliated with the pulp and paper firms PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) and PT Indah Kiat Pulp and Paper (KIPP).

Riau Police chief Brig. Gen. Hadiatmoko said the SP3 was issued because according to Forestry Ministry expert witnesses, the accused companies had permits from the government that allowed them to carry out the logging activities.

Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban said his office respected the police's decision to drop the investigation, confirming that the firms in question had obtained forestry licenses from the government.

At a joint press conference Friday, several NGOs, including Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) and leading environmental watchdog Walhi, said there was a "conspiracy" behind the issuing of the SP3.

ICW's Febri Diansyah said putting a stop to the investigation set a "bad precedence" in the nation's fight against illegal logging.

"The SP3 issuance is proof that the government is encouraging forest destruction with its (poor) policy on illegal logging. It has also made the legal and trial processes a safe haven for environmental criminals," he said.

Febri said the argument put forward by Riau police that there was sufficient evidence of legal flaws in the case was "baseless and bias".

The NGOs demanded that National Police chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri take action against Riau police over the handling of the case.