Antara News, Fardah, Saturday, April 10, 2010 14:28 WIB
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Before leaving for an ASEAN Summit in Vietnam, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made a significant call for partnership with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in environmental preservation.
"The government and non-governmental organizations share the same spirit with regard to environmental conservation efforts," the head of state said before leaving for Hanoi, Vietnam, to attend an Asean summit on Wednesday (April 7).
The President on the occasion thanked Greenpeace Indonesia and also Walhi (Indonesian Environmental Forum) that have so far been critical about and cared for environmental conservation in the country.
Yudhoyono encouraged the central and regional governments to cooperate with the non-governmental organizations to save the forests and the environment.
Earlier, when calling for continued efforts in the fight against illegal logging and deforestation, at a cabinet meeting held in Jakarta, last Monday (April 5), the President, also stressed the importance of cooperation with NGOs in the battle.
"Ask environmental non-governmental organizations to cooperate. NGOs that really care about the environment, have good will to save the country, are our partners. We must not be controlled by the world. Let us conduct the control by ourselves. It is us who should be more concerned about the safety of our country and grandchildren," he said.
Yudhoyono`s statement drew immediate reactions from some NGOs, such as Greenpeace.
"Greenpeace welcomes President SBY`s call for Greenpeace to work together with the government to save the Indonesian environment. The Ministry for the Environment has the mandate and the power to take action against those who destroy forests and peat lands," said Yuyun Indradi, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Forest Political Campaigner, in a press statement on Thursday (April 8).
According to Indradi, the ministry must turn Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono`s words into action by investigating environmental destruction and taking urgent and necessary action.
"We are here to help the ministry take this action by providing evidence of the oil palm and pulp and paper industries destroying forests and peat lands to aid the ministry`s investigations," he said.
A number of environmental NGOs met Thursday (April 8) to compile data on illegal logging activities at the request of President Yudhoyono, who has ordered sterner action against illegal logging crimes.
The NGOs included Greenpeace Indonesia, WWF Indonesia, Forest Watch Indonesia, Sawit (Oil Palm) Watch Indonesia, and Conservation International.
"We asked them to supply data on illegal logging. This will be a good chance for the activists to help the government battle illegal logging," Agus Purnomo, special assistant on climate change to the President, told the Jakarta Post.
Yudhoyono in the cabinet meeting reminded that the fight against illegal logging must not ease. The police, military, law enforcers, governors, district heads and mayors must all immediately go back into the field and seriously continue the fight against illegal logging, he said.
He also emphasized that they should act without compromise or discrimination against the crime.
"I will ask for a report on the progress of the efforts from each province and forest area, on what they have done with regard to reforestation, what compensations are given to people (participating in the effort) and what forest concession holders have done in terms of sustainable forest management. We must not lag behind," he said.
The head of state also warned government officials against protecting illegal loggers.
"There must never be backing, protection on anyone involved. Do not be influenced by information about backing or protection. There is no such thing. No sponsor. No one protects activities that destroy our country," he said.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono suspected that a mafia was involved in the handling of illegal logging cases in several regions so far.
"I believe a mafia is behind the illegal logging activities. I call on the judicial mafia eradication task force to also tackle this problem, reduce or stop these activities," he said.
He said eradicating mafia in the forestry sector was very important for the sake of law enforcement as well as forest and environment conservation in the country.
A number of Greenpeace activists dressing up in costumes resembling endangered species rallied at the Environment Ministry in Jakarta, Thursday (April 8), to demand the enforcement of the laws to protect the environment.
The activists on the occasion delivered dossiers of companies committing environmental destruction in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua where action to save the country`s forests was most urgently needed.
Greenpeace considered their visit to the Ministry`s office not just as an expression of concern regarding continuing forest destruction in Indonesia by giant companies, but also as a way of supporting the agency to execute the mandate in the new environmental law. "We take President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY)`s call for partnership very seriously and call on his Ministries to do the same.
In order to truly develop a model of forest protection and welfare for the Indonesian people, President SBY and the Ministry for the Environment must stop the destruction now," Indradi of the Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said.
A recently-passed environmental law on Environmental Protection and Management gives the Ministry of Environment a greater mandate to implement environmental audit, law enforcement, investigation, and administrative prosecution.
According to Bogor-based CIFOR (the Center for International Forestry Research), deforestation in Indonesia, which has around 120 million hectares of forest areas, has hovered around 2-3 million hectares annually for the last seven years.
"The President`s call for cooperation with NGOs is progress. Apparently, the head of state has realized that the government cannot rely on its bureaucracy alone in fighting environmental destruction," AJ Muaya, a senior editor, said.