Subject: Study says military complicit in illegal logging

The Jakarta Post

Friday, January 29, 2010

Study says military complicit in illegal logging

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A research conducted by the University of Indonesia revealed that military personnel were involved in illegal logging practice in border areas.

A team from the Center for East Asia Cooperation Studies (CEACoS) at the University of Indonesia, uncovered the military's many roles in the illicit business from coordinating to monitoring and investing.

The research covers the period between 1999 and 2006 in East Kalimantan, where illegal logging practices have been reportedly rampant.

"[The military's involvement in this practice] was structural; low- ranked soldiers to territorial commanders received a share," CEACoS executive director Tirta N. Mursitama, head researcher, told the The Jakarta Post.

The research found three types of higher-ranked personnel contributing to the illegal logging business.

"There were those who only received shares from their subordinates.

"Other high-ranked personnel kept close relations with the cukong [tycoons], the godfathers in this business," he said.

The third type includes those who invested directly in the business.

Rear Admiral T.H. Soesetyo, defense director from the Directorate General of Defense Strategy at the Defense Ministry, acknowledged there were certain personnel who were involved in illegal logging practice.

He, however, refused to name the practice as military business.

"Life at the border areas can be difficult for soldiers," he said.

"Their salaries are not enough to live in such areas, especially as daily goods are expensive."

Tirta said his team found that the military operated using two modi operandi.

The first method was bribery. The military received tributes for its role in getting forestry agencies to issue permits, allowing illegal logging.

These tributes take the form of stakes in certain companies.

The other method was the misuse of wood utilization permits (IPK), which are issued by the Forestry Ministry or local forestry agencies.

Military cooperatives that owned IPKs usually hire local people to cut trees and sell the logs to private companies, Tirta said.

But in some cases, tree cutting did not stop within the area covered in the permits.

Koesnadi Wirasapoetra from research center Borneo Institute has spent more than 10 years observing Kalimantan and its rampant illegal logging business.

He said military cooperatives or private companies with the IPKs would cut trees that grew along river banks.

The companies would then export the logs to Malaysia.

Exporting logs is illegal in Indonesia.

"Both methods recognize the role of a cukong who funds the whole system, enabling it to function," Tirta said.

"The cukong distributes money to private companies or military cooperatives.

"The latter two then distribute the money to people in several institutions including the military, the governor [regional government] and the Forestry Ministry through the forestry agencies," he added.

Soesetyo said he welcomed CEACoS' research.

He added, however, that "We cannot simply believe it."

He also said that the military had fined some of its personnel who were involved in illegal logging practices.(adh)

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