Indonesian govt seeks help from experts in forest fire case appeal

  • A boy rides his bike in the haze along a highway outside the south Kalimantan city of Banjarmasin. (REUTERS/Darren Whiteside)
Indonesia's Ministry for the Environment and Forestry has enlisted the help of 23 legal experts to prepare an appeal against a recent decision by a South Sumatra court to rule in favour of a plantation company accused of slash-and-burn practices, according to The Jakarta Globe.

Siti Nurbaya, the minister in charge, said there would be a meeting with environmental law experts to prepare an appeal.

The appeal comes after the Palembang District Court threw out the ministry’s Rp 7.8 trillion ($560 million) lawsuit against Bumi Mekar Hijau, who was accused of causing fires on 20,000 hectares of concession land in 2014.

The court, however, ruled the government failed to prove that the company was directly responsible for the fires.

Siti refused to comment on the highly criticized decision, including the court’s argument that no environmental damage was caused to the company’s concession area as the area “can still be replanted with trees.”

Bumi Mekar Hijau was also accused of committing the same practices in 2015, contributing to forest fires that resulted in choking haze for months, affecting the health of hundreds of thousands of people in Kalimantan, Sumatra and neighboring Singapore and Malaysia.

The case for the company’s purported violations in 2015 has not yet been brought to trial.