Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Lack of transparency hinders fight against logging mafia

Lack of transparency hinders fight against logging mafia

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta Tue, 04/20/2010

A lack of public data on illegal logging cases could prove to be the undoing of the government’s plans to root out illegal logging syndicates in the country, activists said.

Activists from the Natural Resources Law Institute (IHSA), which recently published its annual report on illegal logging cases in Indonesia, said organized crime syndicates that masterminded illegal logging were difficult to trace.

“In our experience, the most difficult task is to get data on illegal logging cases. Officials seem reluctant to release it to the public,” said Fadli Moh. Noch, an IHSA researcher dealing with illegal logging in East Kalimantan, on Monday.

“Until now, it remains unclear which institution manages the data on illegal logging cases.”
The IHSA said it had obtained data on illegal logging cases from at four institutions, the police, the regional forestry office, the provincial prosecutor’s office and the high court.

Fadli said organized crime syndicates could have infiltrated the forestry permit process because many companies that were cutting down trees did not have Environmental Impact Analysis (Amdal) documents, which is required in filing for permission to log.

“By law, it is impossible for companies without the Amdal document to operate in a forest, but the fact is that we keep finding many companies cutting down trees without documentation. This is also the doing of the forest mafia,” he said.

He said another indication that corruption had infiltrated the government was the lenient enforcement of illegal logging laws.

“Most illegal logging suspects are field operators. The average punishment [for such convicted suspects] is typically less than two years,” he said.

Researcher Achmad Djefrianto questioned the government’s claim that illegal logging had decreased of late.

“How could the government have calculated an increase or a decrease if they don’t have good records or data,” he said.

The IHSA published illegal logging cases in Jambi, West Kalimantan and East Kalimantan, from 2007 to 2008.

In East Kalimantan, police data shows that forest crime, including illegal logging, hit 314 cases in 2007, of which 187 were handed over to the East Kalimantan prosecutor’s office.
In 2008, there were 220 cases, 92 of which were brought to the prosecutor’s office.

However the city’s forestry office recorded only two illegal logging cases in 2008.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last month ordered a taskforce to investigate forest crime as part of an effort to save Indonesia’s remaining rain forests.

A member of the Judicial Mafia Taskforce Mas Achmad Santosa said Sunday the taskforce was studying controversial verdicts in illegal logging cases, including that of fugitive Adelin Lis, who fled the country after the Supreme Court sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

President Yudhoyono issued a 2005 instruction tasking 18 departments to monitor and evaluate illegal logging, but the effort has not produced names of any major perpetrators.
A coalition of activists including the Indonesia Corruption Watch, the Indonesian Environmental Forum, Kalimantan-based Save Our Borneo and Sawit Watch have repeatedly called on the government to root out and take stern action against those masterminding illegal logging.

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