No Forestry Mafia in National Police, Chief Says
Farouk Arnaz & Fidelis E Satriastanti
After allegations that two high-ranking police officials were involved in the halting of an investigation into a major case of illegal logging, National Police Chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri on Monday declared there was no forestry mafia in his force.
On Thursday, a coalition of nongovernmental organizations including Indonesia Corruption Watch, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), and Sawit Watch reported 12 public officials to the presidentially appointed Judicial Mafia Eradication Task Force for halting the probe into 13 pulp-and-paper companies accused of illegal logging in Riau Province.
The 12 reportedly included two high-ranking police officials, a high-ranking official of the Ministry of Forestry, a governor, four district heads, and four former officials from Riau’s forestry agency.
In December 2008, the Riau Police, under former chief Hadiatmoko, issued the halt order, known as an SP3, after being advised by experts that the companies had not broken any laws. The SP3 in effect ended 23 months of investigation under the previous Riau Police chief, Suciptadi.
“It’s everyone’s right to report or make allegations, but I guarantee that there is no such thing as a forestry mafia” in the police force, Bambang said, adding that the decision to issue the SP3 “was done professionally and is accountable.”
Furthermore, he said the decision had been reported to Jusuf Kalla, then vice president.
“The SP3 is not final and if there is any new evidence, [the case] can be reopened,” he said.
During the meeting with the task force, ICW legal coordinator Febri Diansyah said two high-ranking officials based at the National Police headquarters in Jakarta were directly involved in issuing the SP3 recommendation or acted as policy makers when it was issued.
“If you classify the positions at the National Police as lower, middle, and higher, then these officials are on the higher level,” Febri said.
Furthermore, he said Suciptadi, when he headed the Riau Police, had declared 200 suspects connected with the case and evidence against them was very strong, but then the “newcomer” from the National Police, Hadiatmoko, said it was not strong enough after consulting new experts.
Teguh Surya, head of advocacy at Walhi, said the issuance of the SP3 was questionable because of “the decision to switch to new expert witnesses by the Forestry Ministry and Riau head of police while the investigation process was still ongoing.”
He added that the case was going to be a difficult one for the task force because it involved so many big names.