‘Indonesia woefully inadequate on illegal loggers’

JAKARTA: Indonesia is allowing powerful businessmen to get rich from smuggling rare timber to China despite its pledges to crack down on illegal logging and preserve its forests, environmentalists said yesterday.

An undercover probe by the independent Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and local group Telapak found rampant smuggling of merbau, a valuable hardwood found mainly in Papua.

The probe tracked the illicit trade from the forests to the ships where the wood was being illegally exported, mainly to China, with the help of corrupt officials.

Complaints to authorities about the two alleged kingpins in the trade had achieved nothing, the groups said in a report.

“While the huge quantity of illegal timber flowing from Indonesia during the first half of the decade has declined, effective law enforcement against those responsible — the financiers, company bosses and corrupt officials — has been woefully inadequate,” EIA campaign director Julian Newman said.

The groups called on Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to make good on his promises to crack down on what he has called the ‘logging mafia’ that is accused of destroying much of the country’s pristine forests.

Indonesia is one of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, mainly through deforestation.

Yudhoyono has pledged to slash its emissions by more than 40 per cent over 2005 levels by 2020, as long as foreign donors pour billions of dollars into the country for forest preservation.

“The illegal trade of merbau is symptomatic of the wider problems and the governance failure in the forest sector in Indonesia,” Newman told reporters.

“It is not only the problems of Indonesia. China has been wide open to illegal timbers. We hope China will follow the US and the EU in banning illegal timber in a bid to protect forests.”

Telapak representative Hapsoro said the government was allowing the kingpins of the illegal trade to run riot.

“It is time for Indonesia to redouble its efforts to combat timber smuggling by going after the main culprits,” he said. — AFP

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