Sat, 15 May 2004

Govt to form special body to combat illegal logging

P.C. Naommy, Jakarta

The Ministry of Forestry will set up a special body to combat illegal logging in the country under the draft regulation in lieu of law on illegal logging.

The body will have divisions from the Indonesian Military (TNI), the National Police, the Attorney General's Office and related institutions, which will be responsible for carrying out investigations, interrogations, raids, confiscation, prosecution and the auctioning of contraband goods.

The police and the military will be responsible for carrying out investigations, interrogations, raids, as well as confiscation of contraband wood, while the Attorney General's Office will assign ad hoc prosecutors to make indictments. All divisions will work under the forestry minister.

The illegal logging eradication body will function as a law enforcement short cut because all of the legal processes will be tackled by ad hoc prosecutors and courts.

To maintain the body's accountability, the forestry ministry vows to only recruit people with integrity and competence in the field of law and with a strong commitment to the environment.

"We will announce the officials who will head all the divisions and put them under public scrutiny to achieve social control," forestry ministry spokesman Bambang Soepijanto said on Friday.

Bambang said the body would be formed as soon as the draft regulation in lieu of law was signed by the President.

According to him, the revised draft was submitted to the State Secretariat on May 12, after being discussed with an interdepartmental team on April 27.

Bambang said that the draft would hopefully be ready within the third week of May, so it could be discussed at the next Cabinet meeting in early June before the Cabinet recess.

"This regulation in lieu of law is the proof of our commitment to punish those responsible for environmental destruction and to maintain the sustainability of our natural resources," he said.

Bambang said that forest degradation would lead to an imbalance in the ecosystem and natural disasters, which would have a financial and psychological impact on both the country and the people.

Data from the ministry in 2003 shows that about 43 million hectares of the total of 120.3 million hectares of forests have become unproductive because of illegal forest exploitation, with the forest degradation rate up to over 2 million hectares per year.

The regulation in lieu of law on illegal logging imposes the maximum punishment of death for those who mastermind and organize the crime.

Bambang said that the regulation would plug the loopholes existing in Forestry Law No. 41/1999 which only referred to the Criminal Code and Criminal Law Procedures Code.

The regulation includes articles on a limited abolition of the presumption of innocence and the use of electronic and digital evidence, which have not yet been stipulated in the Criminal Code.