Sat, 12 Mar 2005

Police intensify hunt for illegal loggers in Papua

Eva C. Komandjaja and Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post/Jakarta/Jayapura

Police said on Friday they had arrested at least 25 suspects accused of massive illegal logging in Papua and were looking for five others, mostly non-nationals.

Among the detainees were Papua forestry office director Marthen Kayoi and West Irian forestry office director Marten Luther Rumadas, as well as a director of PT Wapoga Mutiara Timber, Tan Eng Kwee, and the firm's operations manager, Agustinus Joumilena.

The arrests come just a week after a joint team set up by the government launched Operation Hutan Lestari (sustainable forest) to halt widespread illegal logging in Papua.

National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Aryanto Boedihardjo said that Kayoi had been charged under Articles 50 and 78 of the Forestry Law (No. 41/1999), and Articles 55 and 56 of the Criminal Code.

Kayoi and Rumadas had issued IPKMAs (forest conservation permits for local tribespeople), which were often misused for illegal logging.

The central government considers the issuance of these permits to be illegal as the prevailing law only recognizes an official permit issued by the Ministry of Forestry in Jakarta.

However, a bylaw enacted by the Papua administration allows the local forestry director to issue such forest conservation permits.

Aryanto said that Tan Eng Kwee, a Malaysian national, and Indonesian Agustinus Joumilena were among those suspected of financing illegal logging in Papua.

Two other Malaysians on the list of suspects being sought by the police for their alleged involvement in the crime were identified by their initials as TSK and TTK.

Apparently believing that both TSK and TTK are living in Indonesia, the police have banned the two from leaving the country, Aryanto said.

He said that almost all those on the list of wanted suspects were foreign nationals. "Only one of them is Indonesian. I don't have precise information about their nationalities but most of them are Malaysians," he added.

In Jayapura, Kayoi's lawyer, Budi Setyanto, said he has submitted a request for the Papua Police to release his client from detention, claiming that the Papua governor and the Papua legislative council had guaranteed that the suspect would not abscond.

Budi said the arrest of Kayoi violated legal procedures as the offense with which he was charged was not actually a crime but an "administrative error" that was being construed as being illegal.

The lawyer said he would file a request for a judicial review with the Supreme Court to challenge the charges.

"My client issued the IPKMAs based on a circular issued by the Papua governor, Articles 37 and 76 of the Forestry Law, and the Special Autonomy Law (No. 21/2001)," Budi said.

So far during Operation Hutan Lestari, the police have managed to confiscate 40,679 of logs and 5,669 cubic meters of processed timber, as well as around 496 pieces of heavy equipment and four barges.

The operation was launched after two non-governmental organizations -- the Britain-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and its Indonesian partner, Telapak, revealed findings that Malaysian businessmen along with Chinese and Hong Kong companies collaborated with the Indonesian Military and government officials to smuggle 300,000 cubic meters per month of Merbau timber from Indonesia to China.