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Timber companies owned by conglomerates implicated in forest fires

SiaR - September 23, 1997 (Abridged)

Jakarta – The Environment Minister has released a list of 176 timber companies which are considered to be "at fault" in [causing] the fires in Sumatra and Kalamantan. Many of those listed are by conglomerates owned by people such as Lim Sioe Liong, Bob Hasan, Eka Tjipta Wijaya, and Prayogo Pangestu.

The Environment Minister Sarwono Kusumaatmaja has said that the ministry has asked the police to investigate those companies which are most responsible [for the fires]. But all of the timber companies contacted by SiaR (23/9) have asked the government to be "selective" in taking action. Of the 176 companies named, 40 are classified as having committed major violations.

A timber company in Jambi rejected the governments charges if only particular companies are investigated and acted against.

"Don't only take action against the small timber companies. In fairness it is the timber companies with large investments which are most responsible for the fires and destruction of forests at the moment" they said. They pointed out the correlation between the locations of timber companies owned by conglomerates and the locations of the worst fires. According to them, many of the worst fire started from areas owned by the conglomerates.

The non-conglomerate owned companies question Sarwono and the police's "political will" to take the necessary steps considering that many of the timer companies are owned by "powerful people" who have the backing of the political elite. Furthermore, companies such as Bob Hasan's, have been portrayed to Indonesians as being of great value and service to Indonesia's development.

Companies owned by Bob Hasan have refused to comment on the list released by the Ministry of Environment which includes their companies. A head of one of the companies which operates in Central Kalimantan raised the question of earnings from timber operations and reforestation funds which have been collected by the government. "Where have the funds gone, it could be used to tackle the forest fires" he said. As previously reported by SiaR (11/9), these funds have been injected into companies such as the Nusantara Aircraft Industry (Industri Pesawat Terbang Nusantara, IPTN) [headed by Research and Technology Minister B.J. Habibie] which received as much as 400 billion Rupiah, PT Kiani Kertas owned by Bob Hasan which received as much as 600 billion Rupiah, and as much as 2.2 trillion Rupiah which was used by seven government banks to to prop up the stability of the Rupiah.

[Abridged translation by James Balowski. The title of the report was chosen by the translator.]