Friday, 5 February 2010

Cut forest mafia, activists told government

Cut forest mafia, activists told government

Adianto P. Simamora , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Fri, 02/05/2010

A coalition of activists called on the government to take stern action against forest mafia masterminds to combat corruption in the forest sector, which has caused financial loss to the country.

The activists, including Febri Diansyah and Ilian Deta Sari from Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), came to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on Thursday to push the latter to investigate corruption in the forestry industry.

They said that government officials and businesspeople had damaged the country’s forest through illegal logging and license brokering for forest conversion.

“The government needs to root out masterminds of the forest mafia,” ICW coordinator Emerson Yunhto said Wednesday.

Activists, including from the ICW, Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi), Kalimantan-based Save Our Borneo, Sawit Watch and Riau Forest Rescue Working Network (Jikalahari), formed a coalition to address forest mafia Wednesday.

Coordinator of Jikalahari, Susanto Kurniawan said that license brokering for forest conversion had accelerated the deforestation rate in Indonesia, which currently hit around 1.08 million hectares per year.

“Forest mafia exists due to weak law enforcement and commitment to protect forests,” he said. He added that overlapping authority in handling the forest had furthered accelerated the conversion of forests into plantations and mining areas.

The Forestry Ministry said the country suffered financial losses of at least Rp 30 trillion (US$3 billion) per year from illegal logging.

A report from the International Forestry Research Center (Cifor) said that many countries with an abundance of forests had weak governance structures to control corruption.

The Forestry Ministry said that the office targeted to reduce illegal logging to only around a dozen cases and less than 600 cubic meters of timber. The latest data reported from 2008 that there were about 700 cases of illegal logging.

“Such a target cannot be reached if forest mafia is untouchable,” Abet Nego Tarigan, deputy director of the Sawit Watch Indonesia, said. He also warned corruption from license brokering by “unruly” officials was rampant in the plantation sector.

An investigation by the Sawit Watch Indonesia found businesspeople spent an illegal fee of an average Rp 750 million to gain a permit to 1,000 hectares of plantation. “It’s easy to trace forest mafia. Many plantations have no land-use certificates,” Abet said.