Monday, November 17, 2014

Indonesia haze (update 4): KPK questions former Forestry Minister in Riau-Annas case

17 November 2014: KPK questions former Forestry Minister in Riau-Anas case

MPR speaker faces more questions from KPK BY Indra Budiari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines | Thu, November 13 2014, 9:23 AM; "For the second day in a row, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) grilled People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker Zulkifli Hasan, this time as a witness in a graft case involving Riau Governor Annas Maamun.... The KPK on Wednesday questioned Zulkifli, a former forestry minister, for his alleged role in the land-conversion permit abuse case implicating Annas.... On Tuesday, Zulkifli was grilled for 10 hours for his alleged role in issuing permits for a luxury housing project in Bogor, West Java.... “Their questions were very technical. I also explained spatial planning — I told them that spatial planning in Riau was an achievement because the project was incomplete for a very long time,” Zulkifli told reporters.... Zulkifli, a member of the National Mandate Party (PAN), expressed his disappointment at being dragged into a corruption case so soon after leaving office.... He also denied approving the land-conversion proposal filed by Annas.... “It’s true that the governor submitted a request for a land-conversion permit to me, which I then gave to my inspector general for consideration, but he never gave me his opinion of the permit, so it did not have my approval,” Zulkifli said.... The antigraft body arrested Annas and palm-oil businessman Gulat Manurung, who was also chairman of the Indonesian Oil Palm Farmers Association’s (Apkasindo) Riau chapter, in a raid on Sept. 27...."

13 October 2014: Third Riau governor implicated in graft

KPK charges Riau governor in land conversion case by Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post, JAKARTA/Pekanbaru | Headlines | Sat, September 27 2014, 9:38 AM;; "After hours of questioning, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has named Riau Governor Annas Maamun and palm-oil businessman Gulat Manurung graft suspects... during the operation, the KPK had also confiscated S$156,000 (US$122,450) and Rp 500 million (US$41,500), which allegedly was to be given by Gulat, who was also chairman of the Indonesian Oil Palm Farmers Association (Apkasindo) Riau chapter, to Annas. The money was allegedly given to the governor so he would issue a land-conversion permit for Gulat’s oil palm plantation business.
Meanwhile, KPK deputy chairman Bambang Widjajanto explained that Gulat had a 140-hectare oil palm plantation in Kuantan Singingi regency in Riau, which had been planted in an industrial forest area (HTI). Gulat then asked for the governor’s help to convert the area into a non-forest area, or area for other use (APL).... “As well as for the land-conversion permit, we suspect money was also given to the governor to facilitate Gulat’s future projects in Riau, but we will check that,” Bambang said.
Annas is the third consecutive Riau governor implicated in a graft case. The previous two governors, Rusli Zainal and Saleh Djasit, have already been sentenced in separate graft cases. Rusli was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for his role in the Pelalawan forestry permit and Riau National Games graft cases, while Saleh got four years for his involvement in the procurement of fire-fighting
29 September 2014: landmark peat fire fines

Indonesian government files lawsuits against companies that set forest fires by Hans Nicholas JongThe Jakarta Post/Asia News NetworkSaturday, Sep 27, 2014; The Environment Ministry has filed lawsuits against several agroforestry companies suspected of starting forest fires in Sumatra.
The ministry is taking legal action against seven agroforestry companies that allegedly set fire to forest areas in Riau in 2013. The ministry's law enforcement deputy, Himsar Sirait, said on Friday that the dossiers had been submitted to the Attorney General's Office (AGO). "We are currently completing the support documentation required by the AGO," Himsar told The Jakarta Post.
The seven companies, which are only referred to by their initials, are palm oil companies PT BHS, PT JJP and PT LIH, and industrial forest companies PT RUJ, PT SRL, PT SPM and PT BBH.
The ministry is also investigating allegations that two palm oil companies, PT TFDI and PT TKWL, and an industrial forest company, PT SGP, started forest fires earlier this year
.... Between 2012 and now, the ministry has investigated and filed lawsuits against a number of Sumtra-based plantation companies. In 2012, the ministry filed lawsuits against PT Kallista Alam and PT Surya Panen Subur (SPS). Meulaboh District Court found Kallista Alam guilty of burning peatland in the Leuser conservation area in Nagan Raya regency, Aceh, and ordered the firm to pay a fine of US$30.5 million (S$38.8 million). The ministry, however, lost on Thursday the lawsuit it had brought against PT SPS - for allegedly burning peatland in Tripa Swamp, also in Aceh - which was heard at the South Jakarta District Court..."

Indonesia, Malaysia drawing up haze agreement by Zubaidah Nazeer, The Straits Times/ANN, Jakarta | World | Fri, September 26 2014, 11:42 AM;;
Indonesia and Malaysia are working on a bilateral pact to better tackle the annual transboundary haze, according to officials from both countries who said the tie-up would focus on better fire prevention and tougher penalties for open burning on peatland. Discussions for the memorandum of understanding (MoU) began a month ago on the sidelines of an Asean inter-ministerial meeting, and picked up pace after Indonesia's Parliament finally agreed last week to ratify an Asean haze pact....An aide to Malaysian environment minister Palanivel Govindasamay said both countries had "basically agreed on" the pact. But both sides declined to say when they might sign off on it.'"We are looking at exchange of information and experiences but, importantly, establishing joint research focusing on fire prevention, not just combating a blaze," Arief Yuwono, Indonesia's deputy minister for Environmental Degradation Control and Climate Change, told The Straits Times yesterday... The aide to Palanivel added that the information being exchanged would include details on many Malaysian companies operating in Indonesia, especially those in the palm oil industry.... The pact would also raise the fines for those caught carrying out open burning on peatland, the root cause of forest fires that spark off the annual haze. Officials declined to give specific figures for the new penalties...."

23 September 2014:

Khor Reports: Are there are any good investigations of possibility and cost of raising the water table in the peatsmog haze prone areas. We met the folk at Singapore Institute of International Affairs yesterday, and had a good chat on this as well as the efforts to use remote sensing to track fires and identify its culprits (you will recall that the Indonesian courts have started to take a "negligence" approach to this matter). Since the problem has been going on so many years, might a multi-prong, approach help? While NGO action has helped to publicize the problem and they have helped to get large plantations to agree to halt any development on peat (and stop buying from those still developing on peat), the next stage seems tougher and more scientifically technical. Thanks in advance to readers for any information on the question - how can we really stop / reduce the haze problem?

This ratification comes hot on the heels of a landmark ruling on peat fire where a charge of negligence results in a fine of almost S$2 million being handed down. I posted on this earlier, but repeat it here:; "...The Pelalawan District Court in Riau sentenced ADEI general manager Danesuvaran KR Singam to a year in prison and the option of paying Rp 2 billion (S$210,000) or serving an additional two months in jail for violating Article 99 (1) of the 2009 Environmental Protection and Management Law. "The defendant was negligent in his supervisory role of the estate. He should have actively prevented irresponsible parties from slipping into the estate and setting the fires," presiding judge Donovan Pendapotan said. Danesuvaran, however, was not sent directly to prison after the hearing. "We need to wait for a final and binding verdict from the Supreme Court before sending the defendant to prison," said prosecutor Banu Laksmana, adding that the prosecutors would appeal the sentence. The court found ADEI guilty of violating the same article in the 2009 law and handed down a Rp 1.5 billion fine or see its director, Tan Kei Yoong, serve five months in jail. The court also ordered ADEI to pay an additional Rp 15.1 billion to repair the environmental damage caused by the forest fires...." **Total fines and repair charges for the fire = Rp 2 + 1.5 + 15.1 billion = Rp 18.6 billion or about SG$1.95 million?

Editorial: Overdue haze treaty; The Jakarta Post | Editorial | Thu, September 18 2014, 8:16 AM
"The House of Representatives untypically changed its role from villain to hero on Tuesday when it ratified the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution. The belated move has saved Indonesia from international mockery, if not condemnation, for its failure to rein in the seasonal forest fires that have endangered the lives of its own people and those in neighboring countries.
For a decade the lawmakers, without any sense of culpability, refused to endorse the government’s acceptance of the pact for fear of possible infringement on Indonesia’s sovereignty, given the involvement of foreign, parties to the treaty in a joint task force that would fight fires inside Indonesia. Such a nationalist, if not xenophobic, mindset has led to a protracted, choking haze in the provinces of Sumatra and Kalimantan, home to oil palm plantations and logging activities. The disaster was recurring, which simply proved that Indonesia could not address the forest fires alone.
Tuesday’s unanimous approval by the House therefore marked an end to the politicians’ insensitivity to the suffering of many people..."

RI ratifies haze treaty by Margareth S. Aritonang, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines | Wed, September 17 2014, 9:17 AM; "Indonesia has officially adopted a decade-old regional haze treaty following pressure from neighboring countries over forest fires on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan. A House of ReI presentatives’ plenary meeting on Tuesday endorsed the ratification of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, which obliges Indonesia, as one of the member states, to actively involve itself in efforts to mitigate air pollution, both nationally and through intensified regional and international cooperation. “Ratifying the [regional haze] agreement is the appropriate measure for Indonesia to prove its integrity as well as step up its role in solving problems in the region,” Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya told the meeting.
“As a country with one of the largest areas of forest, this will help Indonesia deal with pollution in the future,” he added. Indonesia was the only ASEAN country left to ratify the agreement, having signed the pact in 2002 along with the other member states. The agreement was formulated as a response to an environmental crisis that hit Southeast Asia in the late 1990s, which was mainly caused by slash-and-burn clearance for agricultural purposes in Sumatra and Kalimantan...."

Text your say: Addressing the haze  | Readers Forum | Mon, September 22 2014, 9:33 AM
Your comments on the ratification of a decade-old regional haze treaty by the House of Representatives, following pressure from neighboring countries over forest fires on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan: This is only one of many steps to protect our forests and the people of neighboring countries...

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