Stricter law urged to tackle haze

Stricter law urged totackle haze

16 October 2006

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Indonesai — The government is being urged to issue a new regulation to boostefforts to stop forest fires that cause choking smoke that blankets parts ofIndonesia and neighboring nations every year at the peak of the dry season.

Central Kalimantan Governor Agustin Teras Narang said the government neededto enact a stricter law and push for united action by local people to deal withthe fires that caused the haze.

“Haze is an extraordinary disaster. That’s why we need an extraordinarysystem to fight it. A government regulation in lieu of law should be issued toenable us to take action,” he told a discussion in Jakarta on Saturday.

A similar call was made Thursday by a leading environmental group, Walhi.

Walhi executive director Chalid Muhammad said the best way to tackle theblazes was to enact a stricter regulation authorizing the government to revokethe licenses of businesses and punish individuals responsible for forest fires.

Putting such a regulation into force could yield dramatic results as most ofthe fires were blamed on forest concession holders using illegal slash-and-burnmethods to open land, he said,

Teras, a former House of Representatives member from the IndonesianDemocratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), argued that the existing laws did notallow police to take action against land burners on the spot.

“Many suspects are able to evade arrest because of weak support from thecentral government,” he said.

Teras explained that police could not arrest suspects on the spot or collectevidence in the field because of their limited powers.

“Law enforcement also needs to be faster. The current system now takes along time,” he said, adding that solving a case should take no longer thanthree months.

“For example, a district court would take no longer than 30 days toissue a haze-related verdict, a high court would then take 15 days and theSupreme Court would take 20 days at the most,” Teras said.

The governor said that without comprehensive and supportive action from thecentral government, he could not stop the annual haze problem that had sparkedstrong protests from Singapore and Malaysia.

“Where is the joy in being a governor if the central government does notsupport our actions and belief in doing what is right?” he asked.

The central government has admitted to having little success in trying to putout the forest fires and fight the haze.

It has tried to induce rains to douse the blazes, but to no avail, becausemany hot spots on peat land were hard to extinguish.

Teras said he would form a joint team to prevent and monitor fires and takeaction against groups or people responsible for forest fires in CentralKalimantan.

The province is one of the hardest hit areas in the country. Local residentshave complained of heath problems due to the thick haze permeating the region.

Teras said subdistrict administrations would serve as the “striker”for the team, while local public figures would also be incorporated because oftheir ability to move local people.

“Central Kalimantan is the lungs of the world. This should be aresponsibility that we all share,” Teras said.

Speaking at the same discussion, House of Representatives member Hilman Indraalso called on the central government to actively involve local people to helpstop the fires.


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