The Jakarta Post
The puzzle over the dominant party responsible for the forest fires that have triggered severe haze problems in several parts of the country seemed to have been solved on Friday.
A central government delegation led by Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut B. Pandjaitan discovered during an on-the-spot visit to the Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI) regency that a large part of the blame ought to be borne by the owners of industrial forest concessions (HTI).
'I found out during our helicopter flight to get here that the hotspots were found on your HTI concession areas here,' Luhut told local South Sumatra administration officials alongside the management of PT Bumi Andalas Permai (BAP), a subsidiary of Sinar Mas Group, at the company's plantation area in the Air Sugihan subdistrict, OKI regency.
'Local people are often blamed for the fires. In fact, HTI concession holders like you are the parties [who are mainly to blame],' he added.
PT BAP, which holds a HTI concession of 192,000 hectares in the regency, produces paper products.
During the visit, Luhut was accompanied by National Police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mulyono and South Sumatra Governor Alex Nurdin.
Luhut told the PT BAP management, represented by its Forestry Operation Manager Sapto Nuristio, that the government would demand that the company bear responsibility for the fires and their impact on the environment and the local people.
'For a company holding such a huge HTI concession, in the future you must have at least one water bombing aircraft, have your own fire department, and have your own early warning system,' Luhut said.
Sapto admitted that the company currently had only one helicopter with a small water tank to deal with forest fires.
Luhut warned the company to comply with the demand, otherwise the government would impose penalties.
'I'll come back here next February to check whether you have complied with the government's instructions,' he said.
'Pak Kapolri [National Police chief] should think of legal actions against such violations,' he told Badrodin.
Speaking about foreign countries that have expressed interest in helping Indonesia put out the fires, Luhut listed Singapore, Malaysia, China and Russia as the ones who had offered to help.
'For immediate and effective measures to put out the fires, the first is through water bombing. In this case, we are expecting the arrival of two Russian Berriev Be-200 airplanes next Tuesday,' he said, referring to the water-bombing aircraft with a water tank capacity of 12.5 tons.
The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said that the foreign countries were expected to focus on helping extinguish fires in South Sumatra, particularly in Ogan Komering Ilir and Musi Banyuasin regencies.
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