Indonesia — An environmental group is questioning the government’scommitment to combating rampant illegal logging in North Sumatra, saying manycases have been left unresolved while several protected forests have beenconverted into forest concessions.
Greenomics Indonesia coordinator Vanda Meutia Dewi warned recently thatdeforestation could cause landslides and flash floods in Medan, the capital ofNorth Sumatra, and many densely populated areas in the area when there are heavyrains.
“The government has made no significant efforts to stop illegal logging inNorth Sumatra and more protected forests have been converted into industrialforests,” she told The Jakarta Post.
She said more than 400,000 hectares of protected forest in Langkat, Karo andNatal-Mandailing regencies had been awarded as forest concessions to forestrycompanies. “How dare the Forestry Minister (M.S. Kaban) sell motherland toforestry companies, who loot protected forests and national parks,” shesaid.
Greenomics also questioned the government’s seriousness in handling the illegallogging cases which involved businessman Adelin Lis, now detained at the NorthSumatra Police Headquarters.
“We are disappointed by the slow progress in the investigation into thecase and into a recent auctioning by the police of 9,000 cubic meters of illegallogs confiscated from Adelin’s company, PT Mujur Timber Group,” she said.The seized logs should not have been auctioned off because they should be usedas material evidence in the legal proceedings in court.
Adelin was arrested in Hong Kong in August after he had been on the Interpolwanted list for his alleged involvement in illegal logging in Sumatra. Manyreliable sources in Jakarta and Medan have alleged Adelin was arrested becausehe had paid too little to corrupt officials in protection money.
Police in Medan have targeted another timber businessman for a similar offense.The police have brought to court local businessman D.L. Sitorus, who wassentenced to six years in prison for the illegal appropriation of protectedforest in South Tapanuli.
National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Anthon Bachrul Alam denied reports that thepolice had orchestrated the auctioning of the illegal logs at low prices, sayingthe commodity had been sold before it decayed and the money went to the statecoffers.
The auctioning of the illegal logs has sparked strong protests from NGOs becausethey were sold for Rp 350,000 per cubic meter, way below the market price. Afterthe auction, some 120 Mobile Brigade police came to the PT Mujur Timber Group’soffice in Medan, raising suspicions that the auctioning was orchestrated by thepolice to extort the company.
Chairman of legal watchdog Constitution Vanguard, Abdurrahman Tardjo, called onNational Police chief Gen. Sutanto to take action against corrupt policeofficers abusing their power in handling the confiscated illegal logs. “Wesuspect that many police officers have bent the law to enrich themselves and theForestry Ministry should be involved in handling such cases,” he said.