President Jokowi vows never to retreat in fight against forest and land fires

(foresthints.news) - President Joko Widodo has shown a clear determination in enforcing the law when it comes to cases involving forest and land fires.

In this matter, the President’s message is as follows: "We are not going to retreat in enforcing the law in cases of forest and land fires. We aim to instill discipline in companies and enforce the law, and if needed, ask the KPK (Corruption Eradication Commission) for assistance.”

This message was read out in person by Indonesia's Minister of the Environment and Forestry, Dr Siti Nurbaya, when opening a press briefing on Tuesday (Sep 6) at the ministry’s office complex in Jakarta.

The minister explained the findings of her team on the ground with respect to the modus operandi for burning peatlands which involves local communities. The local communities in question have admitted that they were ordered to do so by a palm oil company. Evidence on the ground shows that this took place in Sumatra's Riau province.

The minister also said that she had laid out to the KPK the evidence uncovered by her team as a follow up to the President’s message.

“Now the KPK is backing us up. The modus operandi whereby communities are paid by companies to burn land has been documented by the KPK, in particular incidents in Riau and Central Kalimantan provinces.”

The minister pointed out that according to the KPK’s data, of the 447 palm oil concessions investigated 127 were found to be operating in state forest areas, which could unquestionably be classified as illegal palm oil concessions.

“Our priorities are matters concerning forest and land fires as well as the encroachment and occupation of state forest areas by companies involving local communities.”

One report has disclosed that out of the almost 1.3 million hectares of peatlands spread across Riau province and which lie in the moratorium map, the majority is made up of stretches of palm oil plantations.

Another report, meanwhile, has shown clear evidence that the supply chains of leading palm oil groups, most notably those headquartered in Singapore, are involved in the supply of CPO produced in these illegal palm oil plantations.

“The explicit support of the President, with his avowal never to retreat in enforcing the law, especially with regard to forest and land fires, represents a clear commitment and position on the part of the government of Indonesia,” the minister enthused.

The minister also took the opportunity to reiterate that what has transpired in the handling of forest and land fire cases involving certain companies, particularly pulpwood and palm oil companies, does not mean that she or the government has an aversion to these two business sectors.

“I am not anti-corporate sector. As an assistant to the President, I carry out the orders of the President, among which are those which pertain to disciplining the operations of corporate sectors which do business in the forestry and environment sphere. This is the important duty that I have been tasked with by the President.”

President Joko Widodo continues to extol the fight against forest and land fires. In his first year as Indonesian President, his administration struggled to put out forest and land fires, especially those in peatland which are very difficult to extinguish. At times like these, rainfall is usually the decisive factor in extinguishing such peat fires.

In light of this, the President has established a clear target, in that starting from this year Indonesia must avoid any repeat of the terrible experiences of forest and land fires which have occurred every year over the last two decades.

The minister concluded by saying, “Everyone in the Jokowi administration, including me, has to make sure that this clear target set by the President is achieved. That’s what occupies my thoughts. The most important thing is how the President’s target can be shown to have been met this year.”