UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News

Indonesia

Indonesian police name 69 suspects over forest fires

Environmentalists accuse police of targeting victims while ignoring corporations

Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Indonesian police name 69 suspects over forest fires

Smoke caused by forest and peat burning in Indonesia's Central Kalimantan province. (Photo supplied)

Share this article :
Indonesian police have named 69 suspects who allegedly started forest and peat fires in several regions across the country during the first half of this year. Most have been detained and are facing legal action.

Environmentalists, however, criticized the police move, saying they have targeted individuals who in many instances are victims while corporations are left untouched.

Brig. Gen. Awi Setiyono, the spokesman for Indonesian police, told reporters on June 24 that during the period from Jan. 1 to June 21 police had received 64 reports of forest fires.

“About 261 hectares of forest have been burned involving at least 69 individuals,” Setiyono said. “No corporations have been suspects as yet.”

He said the reports were based on police investigations in five provinces — Riau, Central Kalimantan, Aceh, Bangka-Belitung and Jambi.

Riau had most cases with 51 involving 50 individuals and a burned area of more than 242 hectares, while 11.5 hectares were burned in Central Kalimantan.

Rico Kurniawan, director of the Indonesian Forum for Environment (WALHI) in Riau province, said that while law enforcement is important to prevent forest and peatland fires, the police has been unfair in determining the actors behind these crimes.

“It’s unfair that marginal people are sacrificed while corporations are protected,” he told UCA News on June 25.

He said most of the land affected by fires in Riau is owned by corporations.

He also called on police to investigate thoroughly before detaining people “because it’s possible they were ordered or paid by landowners or corporations.”

“The police didn’t touch the main cause of the problem. They must also arrest landowners or corporations because they will use the land for palm plantations,” he said.

Based on the 1999 law on forestry, anyone guilty of causing forest fires will be sentenced to five years in prison and pay a fine of about US$110,000.

Frans Sani Lake, director of the Church’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) in Kalimantan, also called on police to find the real masterminds behind forest burning.

“Those [farmers] who burned their fields in order to plant something should not be arrested,” he told UCA News on June 25.

“If the fires were caused by people who are paid by companies, the police must arrest the leaders of those companies.”

President Joko Widodo instructed related ministries and local governments to take pre-emptive measures to prevent forest and peat fires ahead of the dry season that usually reaches its peak from August to October.

“Use technology to monitor hotspots and to provide related information,” he said during a meeting on land and forest fires in Jakarta on June 23.

According to the Environment and Forest Ministry, the land burned in Indonesia in 2019 was 857,756 hectares, increasing from 510,000 hectares in 2018.

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
UCA Newsletter
YOUR DAILY
NEWSLETTER
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter

Also Read

UCA News Podcast
UCAN Ad
 
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution
Mission in Asia | Make a Contribution