Indonesia shocked with acquittal of firm related to forest fire

Xinhua News Agency


Indonesians were shocked upon the acquittal of compensation of a firm identified of having committed forest fire in South Sumatra.

The acquittal spared the firm, PT Bumi Mekar Hijau (BMH) from demands to pay compensation and rehabilitation fees worth more than 7.9 trillion rupiah (about 570 million U.S. Dollars).

The public's disappointment against the recent verdict issued by judge panel led by Parlas Nababan in Palembang State Court South Sumatra was vented through social media and cartoons, which reprimanded the judge for his ridiculous excuse to release the plantation firm.

Judge Nababan turned down the legal suit lodged by Indonesia's environment ministry against BMH who was identified of responsible for a massive forest fire around its plantation area fire in Ogan Komering Ilir South Sumatra province in 2014. The firm provides pulp for paper industry.

In its legal consideration the judge panel said that the ministry fails to prove the losses that comprised of soil damage, the loss of biodiversity, carbon emission and impact of smog caused by the forest fire.

Due to that, the head of judge panel acquitted the firm, BMH, from all charges and consequences that carried by the ministry's legal suit. The court also rejected the appeal filed in by the ministry in the following day regarding the verdict.

Responding the legal verdict that turned down the ministry's legal suit, Director General of Law Enforcement at Indonesian Environment Ministry Rasio Ridho Sani said that the verdict does not reflect the actual situation on the field.

He said that many parties in the country were disappointed with the verdict.

"The fact on the field showed massive forest fire, the firm did not have proper fire extinguisher equipment," Rasio said recently.

Environmentalists in the country lambasted the verdict which they regarded of 'killing the justice'.

"I can understand on some accusations which cannot be proved, but the verdict was killing the sense of justice. The judge panel was neglectful, not sensitive on the impacts of the firm's misdeeds. This case shows us a lesson on the importance to use judges with environment certification to handle environment case," Raynaldo Sembiring, a researcher at Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL) said.

According to him, the judge panel's legal consideration was very poor in terms of assessing the losses generated by the damage in the burnt forest area. He pointed out that the judge panel did not understand legal enforcement on environment case.

Indonesia's highest legal supervisory body, the Judicial Commission (KY), called on people to remain calm in responding the verdict, saying that respecting the legal process and the judge's dignity were important in the country that upholds the supremacy of law.

"KY expected that the court should also pay attention to people' s aspiration and facts that happened in the field regarding the environment damage caused by those committed in forest fire," Farid Wajdi, the KY spokesperson said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

He pointed out that the case was not merely in penal case domain, but also clearly has environment impact. "Therefore implementation of environment law principle in the case and siding up the interests of the nature should be adhered," Farid said in the statement.

BMH was part of domestic and foreign plantation firms declared suspects in 2014 forest fire that gutted forest areas in several provinces across the country.

In the wake of another forest fire in 2015 government pledged to revoke operation licenses and bring to justice plantation firms proved of having committed forest fire in the country.