Fidelis E. Satriastanti
South Jakarta District Court granted Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s lawsuit against PT National Sago Prima (PT NSP) for a total of Rp 1.07 trillion (US$ 81 million) making it the largest winning in a forest fire case, said a senior official, in Jakarta, on Friday (12/8).
The Ministry of Environment and Forestry, under Directorate General of Law Enforcement, filed a civil lawsuit against the company in October 2015 for land clearing with burning on 3,000 hectares in Kepulauan Meranti district of Riau.
Rasio Ridho Sani, director general of law enforcement, said that the winning was the first largest compensation in a forest fire case.
“We appreciate the judges’ decision which brings justice to those people who have suffered the impacts of forest fires,” said Sani adding that the ministry was ready to answer the appeal of the company on the decision.
The judges have granted nearly all charges made by the ministry such as the company had to pay Rp 319,168,422,500 (US$24 million) for compensation and Rp 735 billion (US$ 56 million) for restoration.
In addition, if the verdict is final and legally binding (in kracht) but the company had failed to pay the fine there will be Rp 50 million (US$ 3816) per day.
“The judges did not granted only one demand from us which is the company should have paid the money for restoration without waiting further legal process. The court rejected the petition on the basis that the legal process is still going on,” said Patra M. Zen, lawyer of the ministry.
Nevertheless, Zen said that the victory was legal assurance that the justice system in Indonesia had used strict liability to deal with forest fires cases.
“It means that judges agreed that companies which obtained permits in forestry sector are responsible to tackle forest fires in their concession areas,” he said. “It sends strong message that companies better handling fires in their areas or ended up paying Rp 1.07 trillion.”
The court found that PT NSP had failed to tackle forest fires in concession areas which have become embedded responsibilities, such as lack of fire monitoring towers, proper fire extinguishers, and no warning boards.
The company also failed compliance assessment conducted by Presidential Unit of Development Monitoring and Oversight (UKP4), under President SBY’s administration, and had ordered to improve its performance.
Bambang Hero Saharjo, one of the expert, said that they had counted the cost under the 2014 Environment Ministerial Regulation.
“The loss is counted from several aspects, such as ecological losses of peatlands, erosion, biodiversity loss, and carbon released,” said the professor of forestry of Bogor Agricultural Institute.
Furthermore, he said that scientific based was not being more appreciated in dealing with forest fires cases compare in the past where companies rarely got fine in trillions of rupiah.
“We were laughed at when we came up with the number. But, that’s the fact and it’s based on the regulation,” he said hoping that other cases would follow suit. END.