A man stands before a pile of oil palm fresh fruit bunches at the height of last the 2015 fire and haze crisis in the Central Kalimantan city of Palangkaraya, Indonesia, one of the hardest hit by the disaster. The orange color is real. Photo: Bjorn Vaughn

By Philip Jacobson
28 July 2016

(mongabay.com) – On July 23 the local police headquarters in the Sumatran province of Riau released SP3 notices related to 15 companies that the Ministry of Environment and Forestry had listed in connection with last year’s fires. A SP3 is an official police document that confirms a case has been closed. No charges will be brought against any of the 15 firms.

“We are very disappointed with the issuance of the SP3,” said Riko Kurniawan, the executive director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) in Riau province. It showed the police “lacked seriousness” in their pursuit of errant companies, he told Mongabay.

“This is one of the indicators to show how serious the government is — particularly law enforcement — to tackle forest fires,” added Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner Teguh Surya.

The El Niño weather event in 2015 prolonged the dry season and fueled annual fires that incinerated more than 2 million hectares in Indonesia. Much of what went up in smoke was highly combustible peat stored within marshes near the coastal areas of Riau, South Sumatra and West Kalimantan provinces.

The result was a national health emergency and a disastrous spike in Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions. At one point Indonesia’s chief security minister said Indonesia would commandeer ships from the state ferry company to evacuate the helpless in their thousands. […]

A letter seen by Mongabay illustrates one example of the slow progression of police investigations and poor interagency communication — problems widely believed to be hampering progress toward holding lawbreaking companies to account and establishing a meaningful future deterrent.

The letter was sent by the head of a local policy implementation unit in Paser, a regency of more than 320,000 people in East Kalimantan province, to the office of the chief of East Kalimantan police. It refers to two police reports filed on June 19, 2014, and February 4, 2015, over the burning of land.

Nothing has been done more than 25 months since the first report, the letter alleges.

“The clearing of land for oil palm plantations is still ongoing to this day along with the opening of new land for the plantation of oil palm seedlings,” agency head Tatik Indawati writes.

“The unresolved cases above led to widespread destruction of forest and the people can see that above case has up to now not proceeded with no attempt made at legal action two years after our first report.” [more]

15 fire-linked firms escape prosecution in Indonesia’s Riau

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