Indonesia's Environment Ministry to sue 14 timber companies
The Ministry of Environment vowed to bring 14 timber companies in Riau province which allegedly involved in environmental destruction to the court of justice following two meetings among related government agencies, a weekly magazine disclosed. TEMPO magazine edition of 22 April revealed a story of meeting in February and January 2012 involving the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Forestry, and Attorney General Office. The meeting hosted by the Ministry of Forestry to follow up two recommendations letters sent by defunct presidential Task Force for Justice Mafia Eradication in August and December 2011.
In June 2011 the Task Force claimed that the State suffered a loss amount to Rp 2,067 trillion based on timber loss cost and enviromental destruction cost. Following a consultation with related government agencies in Pekanbaru at that time, the Task Force asked the Indonesian Police to reopen closed cases involving 14 companies in the province, but there are no responses from any law enforcers.
The Presidential unit to monitor cabinet’s performance, UKP4, now replaces the position of the Task Force. Balthazar Kambuaya, the Minister of Enviroment, said that his office would file a civil case lawsuit to the 14 timber companies associated to two pulp giants in Indonesia, APP and APRIL, for the cost of environmental destruction in Riau province’s forests.
"It can't be stopped easily due to they [the 14 cases] have many problems," said Kambuaya as quoted by TEMPO magazine as saying. So, his Ministry would work with the Ministry of Forestry and Attorney General Office to probe the cases.
The fourteen companies are those who acquitted from conviction of environmental destruction that probed by Riau Police Office under Suciptadi leadership in 2007-2008 when the cases closed by the law enforcer due to considerance of no evidence found by witness from the Ministry of Forestry.
Fourteen companies acquited from criminal charges in December 2008 (13 companies) and June 2009 (one company, PT RUJ) had sparked protests by environmental organizations and raised a conspiracy theory that the government halted the cases for pragmatist reason, despite millions of cubic meter of natural forest logs confiscated by the police in the consessions and hundreds of perpetrators named suspects.
The Ministry is likely preparing to sue the companies to pay compensation for environmental damages they caused by deforestation in tropical rain forest as well as deep peat drainage and conversion.
Muslim Rasyid of Jikalahari said that it was a good news for environmentalists and Riau people and hopefully other government organizations would not hamper this civil lawsuit filed by the Ministry.
"This can be a challenge for President SBY’s government too, whether he will keep his commitment to meet a target of 26 percent carbon emission reduction or not," Muslim added.