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Governmentto file lawsuits against 10 Riau companies 

Source:The Jakarta Post, July 19, 2004 

PujiSantoso, Pekanbaru

Agovernment team will soon submit the case files of three companies that haveallegedly damaged the environment to the prosecutor’s office, as part of itsplan to file a Rp 2 trillion (US$213 billion) lawsuit, an investigator says.

The teamconsists of National Police officers, prosecutors and officials of the Office ofthe State Minister of the Environment.  “We’rein the process of completing the case files of the three companies. We expect tocomplete and submit them to the prosecutor’s office in August,” ZainalAbidin, an investigator with the office, said on Saturday. The case files of seven other companies are expected to be submitted tonthe prosecutor’s office by the end of the year. The three are described as a plantation company, an industrial plant thatoperates in a forested area and a forest concessionaire. Although Zainal would not reveal the names of the companies, he did saythat they were located in Bengkalis and Siak regencies. “We are not ready to name the companies as we don’t want anyunexpected issues to arise,” he said. 

The teamhad declared last month the director of a plantation company in Minas, Riau –with the initials AS — a suspect. He had allegedly ordered that 1,200 hectaresof land be cleared for farming. The clearance of 800 hectares of that land, viathe slash-and-burn method, reportedly contributed to the haze shrouding parts ofSumatra island and neighboring countries. 

The teamfound that AS had issued 12 letters, each ordering the nclearance of 100hectares of land. The company had allocated Rp 650,000 mfor the clearance ofeach hectare of land. 

Localauthorities attempted to extinguish the fires, but faced difficulties as mosthad been lit on peat land. The haze also blanketed nparts of mainland Riau. Inthe neighboring province of Jambi, thick haze caused the city to be blanketedfrom dusk till dawn last month.  Zainalexplained that completing the files was a lengthy process as the nteam did notwant to risk the prosecutor’s office returning them, due to nincomplete data. He added that the lawsuit would not be filed against the 10 companies atonce, but rather, one by one.  Zainalsaid the Rp 2 trillion figure was agreed upon based on a study conducted by anexpert team on forest and soil damage from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture(IPB).  “Thus, it’s not true that we created the (Rp 2 trillion)figure. It is mbased upon the results of a study done by an expert team,”he said. 

Asidefrom seeking compensation, the state is also seeking to prosecute the 10companies based on Law No. 27/1997 on environmental management.  The directors of the 10 companies are being investigated aspossible suspects as they are responsible for any dubious decisions that weremade, said Zainal. 



Dated: July 19 2004


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