Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The administration and the House of Representatives remain at loggerheads over illegal logging in Riau, causing legal and investment uncertainty in the country.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's decision to set up a joint team led by Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Widodo A.S. to deal with the issue only seems to have complicated the issue.
The joint team was formed following friction between the Forestry Ministry and the National Police over illegal logging in Riau.
The ministry defended its decision to give forest concessions to Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) and Indah Kiat Pulp and Paper (IKPP), while the police accused the two companies of getting illegal logs from partner companies.
The issue heated up at the House when the environment commission and forestry commission summoned the management of the two pulp and paper companies on the eve of the Idul Fitri holiday.
House Commission VII overseeing environmental affairs canceled a hearing with RAPP, which was seen as being uncooperative and because of the absence of its owner Sukanto Tanoto.
Several field tours by the joint team have yet to result in any firm recommendations, while the two pulp and paper producers are facing shortages of raw materials because their partner companies supplying wood have stopped operations and areas of their timber forests have been fenced off by police.
Sojuangon Situmorang, director general for public administration at the Home Ministry and a member of the joint team, said the team found strong indications of illegal logging in protected forests and national parks in Riau but had not found evidence the two pulp and paper companies were behind it.
Azis Syamsuddin, chairman of the House's working committee assigned to investigate illegal logging cases, slammed the government and the House commissions for becoming locked in a ""battle of egos"".
""To settle the case, the conflicting commissions should sit down together to put the case on the table and seek a comprehensive recommendation,"" he said.
""The friction between the Forestry Ministry and the police in the government camp and between the House's environmental commission and the commissions overseeing legal and forestry affairs is rooted in the conflicting Law No. 41/1999 on forestry and Law No. 23/1997 on the environment.""
Azis said he was ashamed of the public impression that the House's summoning the two companies on the eve of Idul Fitri was linked to efforts to extort the companies.
""The two conflicting laws should be synchronized to avoid confusion among law enforcers, including the police,"" he said.
Rampant illegal logging has seen Riau top the list of provinces with the highest rate of illegal timber exports, ahead of Kalimantan and Papua.
Every month some 126,000 cubic meters of illegal timber is exported to Malaysia and hundreds of more cubic meters are believed to be supplied to local plywood industries and pulp mills.
Both RAPP, a unit of Raja Garuda Mas International, and IKPP, a unit of Sinar Mas Group, have denied getting raw materials from illegal logging, saying some 80 percent of their timber was supplied from their own forest estates.
IKPP corporate director Jan Partawijaya and RAPP president director Rudy Fajar have questioned the government's ""ambiguous policy and conflicting laws"", which they say have created investment uncertainty among businesspeople.
A spokesman for RAPP, Troy Pantauw, questioned the House's motives in summoning both companies, saying illegal logging also happened in Kalimantan and Papua but no pulp and paper mills or plywood companies from the two islands were investigated.
The Indonesian Employers Association and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry have called on the government to settle the case immediately to improve the investment climate.
Executive director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, Chalid Muhammad, said in addition to law enforcement, the government should supervise both companies and ensure they adjust their production capacities according to the production of their own forest estates.
""The government should also audit both companies to ensure they get raw materials from their own timber estates.""
Executive director of Greenomics Indonesia, Elfian Effendi, said the government should also use its reforestation funds to finance reforestation programs in deforested areas across the country.