Legal action on forest fires

Down to Earth No 53-54  August 2002

The following is a summary of recent legal action against companies accused of setting fires in their concessions.


Only 5 of the 176 plantation and timber companies accused of burning to clear concession land in 1997 were ever taken to court and only one was found guilty, according to former environment minister Sonny Keraf, speaking in March 2000.1

A coalition of 13 NGOs and community groups from North Sumatra took legal action against a number of national timber industry associations and their local members, including APHI, APKINDO and MPI for their part in the 1997-8 fires. The court found the associations guilty and imposed a Rp50bn fine (approx US$5 million). The verdict was overthrown on appeal.2

The Indonesian environmental NGO WALHI brought charges of pollution against 11 logging and plantation companies in South Sumatra following the 1997-8 forest fires: PT Pakerin, PT Sentosa Jaya, PT Inhutani V, PT Sukses Sumatera Timber, PT Inti Remaja Concern, PT Nindita Bagaskari, PT Musi Hutan Persada, PT Sinar Belanti Jaya, PT Sri Bunia Trading, PT Daya Penca and PT Family Jaya Group. Only PT Musi Hutan Persada and PT Inti Remaja Concern were found guilty of burning, but the companies were merely ordered to improve their management and fire precautions. 3

In 1998, satellite images showed fires on the concessions of 200 companies, but legal action was only taken against 9 and only one was successfully prosecuted. 4

The Riau provincial forestry office announced it was taking 47 cases of starting fires to court. 17 companies were to be prosecuted for fires in 1997 & 1998 while 30 others were accused of similar offences in 1999. 5 Only the following two cases were reported.

  1. PT Cipta Daya Sejati was found guilty of illegal burning in a Riau court in 1999. Three people (2 casual labourers and one field staff) received sentences of 3 -10 days in jail. No action was taken against the management.
  2. A court case against PT Torganda in Bangkinang, Riau for illegal burning in 1999 was dismissed. 6

The Environmental Impact Management Agency (Bapedal) in Riau named 3 of the 14 plantation companies identified in 1999 for using fire as illegally burning to clear land in 2000: PT Adei Plantation Industri, PT Musim Mas and PT Jatim Jaya Perkasa.7 The Forest Department in Riau said legal action would be taken against 6 companies for illegal burning in 2000. 8

The North Sumatra Forestry and Plantation Office planned to bring at least 18 companies to court in 2000 for burning tens of thousands of hectares of forest, starting with the five bigger companies: PT Langkimat, PT Barumun Rapala, PT Maduma, PT Kass and PT Torganda Bukit Harapan.9

The head of Riau Bapedal identified the following companies as burning to clear concessions in 2000: PT Inti Prona, PT Esa Indah Timber, PT Shorea Meranti Timber, PT Rokan Permai TBR, PT Mandau Abadi, PT Perkasa Baru, PT Triomas LT Forestry Indonesia, PT Expra Baru, PT Kulim Coy, PT Indowood and PT Dwi Marta. 10 No legal action against these companies has been announced.

Environment minister Keraf announced that his agency, Bapedal, had filed suits at the Attorney General's Office against 5 companies in May 2000 for their alleged roles in forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra, but only one had been processed due to an apparent lack of evidence. 11 He did not name the companies.

The court case against PT Adei began in Pekanbaru, Riau in early 2001. The prosecutor demanded a 4 year jail sentence for the Malaysian manager for burning plantation land in 1999 and 2000. 12

In June 2002 deputy minister for environment conservation Liana Bratasida said the Indonesian High Court had decided against PT Adei (described as an Indonesian-Malaysian joint venture) and ordered the company to pay a Rp 100 million (US$10,000) fine. The judgement specified an eight month jail term, but it was not made clear who would serve the sentence. She said the Indonesian authorities were also seeking to prosecute another Indonesian-Malaysian joint venture plantation company, PT Jatim Jaya Perkasa (one of the others named by Bapedal). Three other companies, all Indonesian, were close to being brought to court, she said. 13

The Riau forestry office said satellite images showed fires burning on the concessions of 24 companies in mid-2001. The six timber estates are PT Arara Abadi (AA), PT Riau Abadi Lestari (RAL), PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP), PT Inhutani IV, PT Sinar Sumatera Plywood Industry and PT Rimba Seraya Utama. The 13 plantation firms are PT Astra Agroniaga, Rokan Adi Jaya, Surya Dumai Agrindo, Duta Palma Nusantara, Raja Garuda Mas, Tani Swadaya Perdana, Musim Mas, Blankolam, Subur Arum Makmur, Kencana Amal Tani, Jatim Jaya Perkasa, Titian Tata Pelita and PT Dharma Unggu Guna. The five logging companies are PT Rokan Permai Timber, Sri Buana Dumai, Siak Raya Timber, Bina Daya Bintara (formerly PT Kosmar Timur Raya) and PT Ubbi Mekar. 14

Five logging concessions in West Kalimantan were named as having fires on their concessions: PT Harapan Kita Utama in Kapuas Hulu, PT Tunas Indo Timber, PT Harapan Kita Utama and PT Nusantara Mukti Sentosa in Sintang and PT Tanjungpura Bhakti in Sambas.15

1  Kompas 28/Mar/2000
2  Waspada 19/Jun/1998
3  Republika 21/Jan/2000
4  Suara Pembaruan 3/Mar/2000
5  AFP 15/Sept/1999
6  Republika 21/Jan/2000
7  Media Indonesia 8/Mar/2000
8  Jakarta Post 20/Jul/2000
9  AFP 3/Aug/2000
10  Jakarta Post 26/Jul/2000
11  Indonesian Observer 9/May/2000
12  Kompas 27/Jul/2001
13  New Straits Times 12/Jun/2002
14  Jakarta Post 18/Jul/2001
15  Tempo 17-23 July 2001