JAKARTA, Aug 28 (Bernama) — Indonesian law enforcers are making arrests and quizzing plantation companies suspected to be responsible for forest fires in several parts of the country following complaints at home and abroad over the perils of the annual haze.
According to Indonesian news agency, ANTARA, police have arrested 20 people in Sumatra’s Riau province and will quiz at least six plantation firms in Kalimantan.
The firms will be questioned over alleged roles in land and forest fires which have created haze and disturbed health, trade, and land, sea and air transportation these past weeks.
The arrests were made about a week after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono voiced his dissatisfaction over regional governments’ inability to prevent and overcome forest fires in their respective provinces.
“We can still witness various fires in the last several weeks. We really regret their occurrence because all of these are related to the lack of responsibility, attention and leadership of the regional governments concerned,” Susilo told the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) at the parliament building last week.
In June, Susilo had called on ministers concerned, provincial governors, district chiefs and mayors to jointly prevent and anticipate forest and land fires and to handle them whenever they occur.
The President also summoned the relevant ministers to take legal action against plantation owners who used fire to clear the forests for plantations.
“Those who set forests on fire, mostly big plantation companies, must face legal action,” the news report quoted Communications Minister Sofyan Djalil as saying.
Meanwhile, Vice-President Jusuf Kalla has also ordered police to take stern action against those responsible for forest fires.
“Police have made the arrests of the suspects who include an Indonesian businessman with a Malaysian plantation company,” he said, adding that police would also query executives of six plantation companies in areas where the fires occur.
The six plantation companies are in the Pontianak and Sambas districts, and the government’s interrogating team and Environment Ministry officials will arrive here to conduct inspection tomorrow.
Those found guilty of setting fire for land clearing will face a 10-year imprisonment and fine of US$50,000 (US$1=RM3.68).
Annual forest fires in Indonesia, notably in Sumatra and Kalimantan, always affect its neighboring countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam and Thailand.