10 regents in Kalimantan prosecuted for illegal logging
Indonesia – Ten regents in Kalimantan are currently being prosecuted for alleged involvement in illegal logging and the embezzlement of government reforestation funds, Minister of Forestry Malam Sambat Ka’ban said on Saturday.
He declined to disclose the names of the regency chief executives, but the prosecutions are seen as the first legal moves to be taken against senior local officials in the current administration’s campaign against illegal logging.
Previous crackdowns have mainly netted low-paid workers hired to fell trees, the crew members of vessels transporting the logs, or junior police and military personnel. Even mid-ranking police and military personnel arrested in such crackdowns are rarely prosecuted.
“The regents all come from regencies in Kalimantan. Legal proceedings against them are still ongoing,” Ka’ban said as quoted by Antara on the sidelines of a ceremony held by his Crescent and Star Party (PBB) here.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in March of this year launched an aggressive campaign — called the Sustainable Forestry Operation — against illegal logging in a bid to protect the country’s rapidly declining natural forest cover and improve Indonesia’s image in the international arena.
Environmental groups say that so far they are encouraged by the campaign as it appears to be producing results, although they say that the authorities still need to go after the masterminds.
Ka’ban said that eradicating illegal logging was difficult as it not only involved international criminal organizations but also many corrupt officials in important posts in various state institutions.
He said that at least 16 institutions, including the police, military, customs and excise office, local administrations, prosecution service, local legislative councils, the House of Representatives and the Ministry of Forestry itself, as being involved in illegal logging.
“Many officials are involved in the crime, and I admit that the Ministry of Forestry cannot overcome the complexity of the illegal logging problem alone,” he said.
He added that because of this complexity, the fight against illegal logging would be a “long-term war” and require “guerrilla tactics.” He did not elaborate.
Elsewhere, Ka’ban said 59.3 hectares of the country’s total 120 million hectares of natural forest had disappeared due to logging over the past 30 years.
He added that illegal logging also took place in protected forests and national conservation areas.
He said that at the current deforestation rate of 2.8 hectares per year, Indonesia’s natural forests would have completely disappeared by 2015.
Ka’ban also said that the high deforestation rate was also defrauding the public purse of some Rp 41 trillion (about US$4 billion) each year.
He added that the fight against illegal logging would be one of the Susilo government’s 36 top priorities over the next four years.