The Jakarta Post
Various civil society groups have raised the issue of corruption in the natural resources sector, with several cases occurring particularly in the oil palm and mining sectors, in which industry players are linked with regional heads of government.
As part of its supervisory actions, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has recommended the revocation of overlapping business licenses in forest zones. The move is linked to reports made by NGOs regarding this issue.
Through monitoring coordination and supervision, about 4,000 mining licenses in 12 provinces have been found to be questionable.
The KPK has suggested annulment of such licenses, despite lackluster responses from regional administrations. According to the Indonesian Environment Forum (WALHI), only a small number of the licenses have been repealed, including those in Bangka Belitung (eight), South Sumatra ( 17 ), Jambi ( 184 ), South Sulawesi ( 33 ), Southeast Sulawesi ( 184 ), Central Sulawesi ( 85 ) and West Kalimantan (nine). The KPK has estimated state losses from corrupt licensing practices at Rp 1,000 trillion (US$71.4 billion).
As part of the National Movement for the Rescue of Natural Resources, 29 ministries/institutions and 12 provincial administrations signed on Mar. 19 a memorandum of understanding regarding the eradication of corruption in the maritime, forestry and palm oil sectors.
The movement was prompted by the need for cooperation between relevant sectors, ministries and institutions.
The initiative has been further supported by the investigative and prevention efforts of the KPK, thus indicating the KPK's growing role in the area of natural resources corruption eradication.
On Tuesday the selection of new KPK leaders conducted by the Selection Committee Team was completed. Amid the diverse systematic attempts to weaken the KPK, the public still has high hopes for the commission. The selection of candidates for KPK leadership should serve as a positive development for the KPK as well as NGOs. It also strengthens the KPK's commitment to sustaining and strengthening its efforts in eradicating corruption in the natural resources and environmental sectors.
This commitment certainly requires a strong KPK institution because, within the natural resources and environmental sectors, it faces not only corrupt public officials but also criminal corporate forces particularly from the mining and palm oil industries.
The KPK's biggest challenge as it tackles corporate crime in natural resources and environmental areas is the even more complex nature of corporate crime.
Among the cases of natural resources and environment corruption mounted by the KPK, only public officials have been brought to justice, leaving corporate actors unscathed.
Regarding the corruption cases in environmental and natural resources spheres reported by WALHI to the KPK, future leaders of the KPK are expected to possess the capability and courage to take corrupt perpetrators and corporations to court, rather than only suspected public officials.
The KPK's performance to prevent and act against graft practices deserves appreciation, but it is still hoped that the big corporate actors behind natural resources corruption will be tried in court so as to provide a deterrent effect and end corporate crime in Indonesia.
The challenge in the eradication of corruption of natural resources includes how to define and calculate state losses resulting from environmental damage and the loss of people's livelihood caused by the graft practices in this sector.
Calculation should take into account the cost of environmental degradation, the cost of the loss of biological diversity and the cost of social and cultural disruption stemming from corporate crimes.
The prevention of natural resources and environment corruption requires a reform of the ministries/institutions responsible for licenses and supervision. This will hopefully lead to synergy between the KPK and ministries/institutions.
Similarly, the KPK's supervision of regional administrations should be further enhanced. This is in light of the fairly vast authority of regional heads as stipulated in the Regional Administration Law regarding the granting of licenses and recommendations to extractive industries. Moreover, ahead of regional elections they always seize the opportunity to issue licenses at will.
Any consolidation of converging interests between corrupt personnel and corporations through various modes like land conversion, illegitimate forest product utilization and tax evasion, should be promptly ended by selecting KPK leaders with integrity, capability and courage.
It demands the profound understanding and bravery of the selection committee not to pass candidates connected with business groups that are highly likely to give rise to conflict of interests.
Suitable KPK leaders will be those who possess knowledge of the manner in which natural resources corruption works but having no track record that link them to natural resources enterprises.
As the final selection is in the hands of the House of Representatives (DPR), the lawmakers should share the same spirit and understanding of the importance of corruption eradication in the natural resources sector.
By going deeper into and focusing on corruption cases in this sector, the House's final selection should lead to a KPK leadership with the capacity and integrity to perform this commitment.
The House should realize that apart from the potential loss of state revenue, natural resources corruption has threatened environmental sustainability and the source of livelihood of many people in Indonesia.
The writer chairs the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi).
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