Govt supports Walhi lawsuit against companies accused of starting fires
TheJakarta PostJune 14, 2003
The central and local governments expressed their support on Friday for amove by the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) to file a lawsuitagainst 20 firms accused of starting forest fires in Riau.Herman Prayitno, the division head of forest fire prevention at theMinistry of Forestry, and Ahmad Syah Harrofie, the head of the RiauEnvironmental Impact Management Agency (Bapedalda), said the lawsuit wouldencourage theenforcement of the environmental law.”If they have any evidence, just sue the companies,” Herman said.Walhi said the firms started the fires by using the slash-and-burn methodto clear land.He said there were fires in the Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP)industrial estate, but it was not clear yet where the fires had started.RAPP was on Walhi’s list.”RAPP has been unable to contain the fires, and it has asked us to get thehelp of fire-fighting teams from Thailand,” Herman said.Ahmad Syah said the local government had also been investigating the firmsthat were behind the forest fires, but he refused to name the companies.The firms said on Friday that they were not guilty of any wrongdoing, butsaid they were prepared for the lawsuit to be filed by Walhi.RAPP, a subsidiary of Raja Garuda Mas, denied the accusation brought forwardby Walhi, claiming that the fires were set by other people.”The area that is burning, which is on our estate, is not our land. It island that belongs to the locals,” Nandik, the spokesman for RAPP, told theJakarta Post.. “We do not know who started the fires, but if you don’tbelievemejust check it for yourself.”He said RAPP had not used fire to clear the land for planting since 1995.Despite the denial, he would not ask Walhi to drop the lawsuit. “We willlookinto the lawsuit,” he said.PT Arara Abadi, a subsidiary of PT Indah Kiat Pulp and Paper, also denied theaccusation, saying that it did not clear land by using the slash-and-burnmethod.”We have never used fire to clear the land,” he said.Walhi announced on Thursday its intention to file a lawsuit against 20 firmsand seven local governments in Riau for starting forest fires and failing tocontain them.RAPP, Arara Abadi, Siak Raya Timber and Rokan Permai Timber are major firmson Walhi’s list.Walhi will also sue the Pekanbaru, Rokan Hulu and Hilir, Indragiri Hulu andHilir, Dumai and Bengkalis administrations.The government banned the slash-and-burn method in 1999, but many firms andlocals maintain the practice to save on the cost of clearing land.Meanwhile, in Medan, North Sumatra, a high level of dust particles in thearea caused more cases of acute respiratory infection (ISPA).The number of patients with ISPA in the capital city of North Sumatra hasincreased by 20 percent from the period before the haze.The head of the Medan Health Office, Herman Shadeck, acknowledged the rise inISPA cases, saying that he had delegated medical officials and medicine toall health community centers.
Firms sued by Walhi over forest fires:
PT Hamidah Hamidi, PT Sumatera SinarPlywood, PT Arara Abadi, PT Esa Indah Timber, PT Sri Buana Dumai, PT NationalTimber Industri, PT Rokan Permai Timber, PT Bumi Reksa Nusa Sejati, PT Inecda,PT Multi Gambut Industri, PT Sari Hijau Mutiara, PT Bhumi Reksa Nusa Sejati,PT Priatama Riau, PT Rokan Permai Timber, PT Flora Wahana Tata, PT Siak RayaTimber, PT Indowood, PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper, PT. Rokan Permai Timber,PTDuta Palma Nusantara1.