THE Indonesian Government is serious about investigating and prosecuting those involved in open burning.
Deputy Environment Minister Masnellyarti Hilman said it does not matter whether the companies involved are Indonesian or Malaysian as the Government wants those who break the law to be prosecuted.
“We are very serious about this as our Enviroment Minister has been ordered by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to pay attention to bringing these culprits to book,” she said.
Clearing of land by burning is illegal, but the Government has often failed to prosecute and convict errant plantation owners and logging firms due to weak implementation of the law.
The authorities also faced difficulties in apprehending the people who are paid to conduct the burning as they often do it at night and flee.
Hilman, however, was optimistic that the Government would be able to take the errant companies to court this time around.
“Right now, we are conducting our investigations, collecting evidence. It is difficult to get proof as eye witnesses often retract their statements later. But this year, I believe we technically have enough evidence to bring those companies all the way to court.”
She said it would take several months before charges could be filed.
The Indonesian Government yesterday claimed that 10 plantation companies, including eight from Malaysia, would be charged with large-scale burning of forests on the island of Sumatra.
Meanwhile in Kuala Lumpur, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar called for a regional action plan to deal with environmental problems such as the haze, saying Asean would have to face the problem collectively and not address it as a bilateral issue.
He said Asean already had an agreement on tackling the haze, but it was ineffective during such a crisis because it had not been translated into an action plan.
As such, the Asean summit, scheduled to be held here in December, would discuss the plan as it required political will and commitment, he added.