Police yet to ascertain foreign companies` involvement in forest fires

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The National Police (Polri) has yet to ascertain the involvement of foreign companies in setting forest and land fires that have occurred in several regions in Indonesia.

"We have yet to mention the names of the foreign companies involved in setting forest and land fires. We are still investigating," National Police Chief Badrodin Haiti remarked here on Thursday.

The police has received the names of the suspects and companies in connection with the cases.

"The police is still investigating the involvement of directors and commissioners in the company as part of its efforts to ascertain the complicity of the foreign companies.

"The owner of the company could be involved in forest and land fires. But, claims should be backed by legal facts," he emphasized.

According to the law, a person involved in setting forest fires can be sentenced to a minimum three years and maximum 10 years in prison.

Earlier, President Joko Widodo had ordered that stringent actions must be taken against the perpetrators of forest fires, which caused haze, disrupted normal life, and affected public health.

"The president has ordered that firm legal action should be taken against the perpetrators of forest fires, irrespective of whether they are individuals or corporations, so that it serves as a deterrent in future," Willem Rampangilei, the head of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), stated at a press conference here on Wednesday after attending a limited meeting with the president.

He noted that Haiti, who had also attended the meeting, supported this stance, affirming that a law enforcement task force assigned to deal with forest and land fires had tackled 18 reported cases and named 140 suspects, including seven corporations. He remarked that 17 corporations were involved in the fire incidents.

Badrodin noted that the seven arrested suspects, who were only identified by their initials, were JLT from PT PMH in Ogan Komering Ilir, South Sumatra; P from PT RPP in South Sumatra; S from PT RPS in South Sumatra; FK from PT LIH in Riau; S from PT GAP in Sampit, Central Kalimantan; GRN from PT MBA in Kapuas; and WD was arrested from PT ASP in Central Kalimantan.

The police chief stated that more people could be arrested as investigations were still ongoing.

"This is the result of the presidents order to take firm action to prevent any recurrence of such fires next year," he emphasized.

General Haiti suggested to the government, which is the regulator, to blacklist companies that had allegedly caused the fires. This would make it possible to reject their applications for permits.(*)