Indonesia releases expanded list of 175 burning-ban violators

THE BIG HAZE

THE Indonesian government has released an expanded list of 175 companies suspected of violating a ban on clearing land by burning which was imposed earlier this month.

The Forestry Ministry list, distributed yesterday, showed the bulk of firms issued with warnings were plantations.

Of the 175, 133 were plantation firms, 27 were timber estate companies, and the remaining 15 were enterprises engaged in land clearing for transmigration.

All the companies were based in provinces in Sumatra and Kalimantan – areas hardest hit by forest and land fires and the resulting haze.

Forestry Minister Djamaludin Surjohadikusumo threatened to revoke the licences of these firms if they did not show that they were not engaged in land clearing by burning after the ban was ordered earlier this month.

They had 15 days to do this, he told reporters.

His comments came against the backdrop of measures taken by the government to find solutions to forest and land fires which have destroyed 300,000 hectares of forests as of July this year.

Environment Minister Sarwono Kusumaatmadja said the government would continue a crackdown on firms that violated the ban – including releasing their names in public to “shame” them, and having them foot the bill for cloud-seeding operations now underway in Sumatra.

He added that collusion between businesses and local government officials was one reason why companies continued to violate the ban on land clearing by fire.

Mahathir: Culprits should help out.

Bernama reports: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday in Kuala Lumpur that Malaysian companies accused of having caused forest fires in Indonesia should go there and find ways to put them out immediately. “They should … find ways to douse the fire either by cloud-seeding, using water or mobilise their workers there,” he told reporters after launching a road safety campaign for motorcyclists.

News reports in Indonesia had quoted Riau Governor Soeripto as saying that two Malaysian joint-venture firms were involved.

Asked to comment on President Suharto’s apology on the haze, Dr Mahathir said it was very much appreciated.

“If there is no cooperation from Indonesia, if Indonesia denies it, it will be difficult.”

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