As Indonesia’s forest crisis deepens, the environmentalcampaigning organisation, WALHI, has made a strong appeal to internationaldonors to support a moratorium on industrial logging across Indonesia. WALHI launched an attack on corrupt politicians and their cronies responsiblefor the worsening deforestation in Indonesia. The felling has caused widespreadecological devastation and human suffering, including deaths from floods,landslides and fires. WALHI puts deforestation at 2.5 million hectares per year, and estimates thatwithin a few years all lowland rainforests in Indonesia will be destroyed unlessradical changes are introduced. The wood is consumed by Indonesia’s voraciousforestry industries – sawmills, ply and pulp mills and wood productmanufacturing. WALHI says that in 2002, the demand for timber from the country’swood-processing industries was an estimated 63 million cubic metres, but theallowable cut set by the government was only 12 million m3- a supply gap that has been widening year on year as the forests areprogressively destroyed. This means that the 51 million m3shortfall in 2002 had to come from other sources – most of which wereillegal. The forestry ministry predicts that this year the gap will be evenbigger, with the official cut at 6.8 million m3and national demand reaching as high as 71.6 million m3. This overcapacity is a key factor driving rampant illegallogging in Indonesia. WALHI wants the CGI – Indonesia’s creditor group chaired by the World Bank – toprovide grants to assist Indonesia to reduce overcapacity as a matter of urgencyIt says the CGI should direct strictly monitored funds toward the laying off andretraining of forest industry workers who will lose their jobs. It is callingfor a nationwide moratorium on industrial logging, followed by implementation ofthe eight reforms agreed at the CGI’s 9th annual meeting in Jakarta 2000. Theseinclude a crack-down on illegal logging, a moratorium on converting forests tonon-forest uses and the down-sizing of wood-based industries (seeDTE SpecialReport, Forests, People and Rights p.28 for details of these). WALHI also wants the CGI to request Indonesia to stop all industrial logging andforest conversion on indigenous lands without the owners’ free and informedconsent. The CGI met in Bali in January 2003 to approve over 2 billion dollars of newloans aimed at propping up Indonesia’s debt-ridden economy. Since 1999, when theCGI first started discussing forest reforms, Indonesia has been under pressureto reduce capacity in the wood industries, but with little effect. Increasingly,the CGI’s main emphasis has been tackling the problem of illegal logging, partlyas this area of reform is considered the most practicable. WALHI argues that all industrial logging – not just some – must be halted if thenation’s last remaining forested areas are to be saved. “The blatant criminal activities in the forestry sector, whethercategorized as legal or illegal at the Ministry of Forestry, violateIndonesians’ social and cultural rights throughout the country, and compromisesour future”, writes WALHI’s director Longgena Ginting (Jakarta Post, 17January 2003). WALHI’s moratorium call, first issued in January 2000, is aimed at creating aspace for reforms to be implemented, including legal recognition of indigenousforest-dwellers’ rights. Logging moratoria have now been agreed to by the governors of Aceh and West Javaand, recently, two Indonesian ministers called for a logging moratoriumthroughout Java. Environment minister Nabiel Makarim again called for a loggingban in Java and Bali in late January (Jakarta Post, 31 January 2003). Last May, President Megawati signalled interest in a national moratorium, but noconcrete action followed. According to WALHI, “strong forces” in theforestry ministry are resisting change and have attempted to stop theimplementation of logging moratoria at the provincial and local levels.
Making matters worse are the shiploads of logs that aresmuggled out of the country for sale in Malaysia, China, Japan and othercountries, despite a national log export ban imposed in 2001. The logs are usedto feed wood processing industries in other countries. According to forestryminister Prakosa, over 10 million cubic metres of timber was smuggled abroad in2001. China’s demand for wood is at least 40 million cubic metres per year, mostof which is expected to come from Indonesia, according to a top Indonesianforestry official. China is particularly known to import large quantities ofmerbau (Intsia bijuga) logs from West Papua (see DTE 55:1). Illegally exported Indonesian timber is now so cheap in China (whose own forestsare protected by a logging moratorium) that, ironically, Indonesianwood-processing companies are finding it cheaper to re-import than to buylegally felled logs in Indonesia. Four or five Indonesian timber tycoons aresuspected by the forestry ministry of being behind the trade with China,including an unnamed famous tycoon. NGOs suspect that an MoU signed by China andIndonesia in December 2002 to curb illegal log exports will not affect theseactivities. A similar agreement signed with Malaysia earlier in the year is notbelieved to have made much impact on the illegal trade (Jakarta Post, 24December 2002).
It is widely known that government officials and thesecurity forces are involved in the web of corruption that sustains the illegallogging and export trade. In January, military involvement in illegal loggingwas openly acknowledged by the armed forces commander Endriartono Sutarto, whothreatened dire consequences for members of the armed forces (TNI) caught in theact. “If there are TNI members protecting log smugglers, I will nothesitate to shoot them”, he declared, issuing the same warning forbusinessmen who get TNI members involved in smuggling. He also instructedthe navy to sink any vessels carrying smuggled logs after the logs had beenconfiscated (Jakarta Post, 16 and 24 January 2003). Companies controlled by military-owned foundations have timber licences alongboth the Kalimantan and Papuan borders and ex-military personnel housed thereare said to be heavily involved in illegal logging operations. (SawitWatch perscom.) In January, a forestry department official predicted that illegal logging wouldintensify during 2003 as political parties raise funds to finance the 2004election campaign. I Made Subadia, Director General of Forest Protection andNature Conservation, told Indonesian parliamentarians that illegal loggingusually increased dramatically before elections, as politicians pressed illegalloggers to provide more kickbacks. The claim was reported to have infuriated theparliamentarians (Jakarta Post, 30 January 2003). Links between illegal logging and Indonesia’s top politicians have been exposedbefore – notably by the environmental NGOs EIA and Telapak Indonesia in theirwork on the role of Abdul Rasyid’s Tanjung Lingga Group and illegal logging inCentral Kalimantan’s Tanjung Puting National Park. Abdul Rasyid is a member ofIndonesia’s highest legislative body, the Peoples’ Consultative Assembly (MPR).A new EIA/Telapak report documents the corruption which prevents implementationof the log export ban and allows Abdul Rasyid to escape prosecution. The reportcalls on President Megawati to give full support to the forestry minister totackle illegal logging and remove Rasyid’s parliamentary immunity. It also callson the Indonesian government to investigate cases of police and navy collusionin illegal logging and make the activities of the military transparent andaccountable. (See EIA/Telapak, Above the Law, January 2003 www.eia-international.org)