Sampoerna Agro´s Subsidiary Punished for Forest Fire

Friday, 12 August 2016 , 15:00:00 WIB - Law

A helicopter of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) is seen putting out a forest fire in Ogan Ilir, South Sumatra, Thursday (11/8). (ANTARA)

JAKARTA, GRES.NEWS – The District Court of South Jakarta has ruled for some lawsuits filed by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry against PT National Sago Prima (NSP), a unit company of PT Sampoerna Agro Tbk (SGRO). This marks a milestone in the history of environmental lawsuits in Indonesia.

The ministry’s lawyer Patra M. Zen described the ruling as the people’s victory. The court fined PT National Sago Prima Rp1 trillion as compensation for the state for the environmental damages incurred.

The fine for PT National Sago Prima far exceeds the Rp366 billion that PT Kalista Alam must pay in material damages and for environmental recovery. The ruling against PT Kalista Alam was handed down in August 2015. The company was sued by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry for being responsible for the land fire in Rawa Tripa swamp in Aceh.

"With the ruling (against PT National Sago Prima) it is hoped that no more company would operate without protecting and conserving the forest. It is also hoped that companies can prevent forest fires (in their concession-red). Indeed, forest fires can be prevented, said Patra, chairman of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), yesterday, after the court session.

PT National Sago Prima has declared that it appeal against the ruling. Coordinator of the company’s team of lawyers Harjon Sinaga, from Lubis, Ganie & Surowidjojo (LGS) Law Office, said the panel of judges failed to take into account the evidence, including the scientific opinions from experts, that the company presented in court.

The ruling was based on weak evidence and assumptions presented by the plaintiff, Harjon said, Friday (12/8).

Meanwhile, non-governmental organizations (NGO) praise the decision. It shows that corporations behind forest and land fires can be held responsible, said Andi Muttaqien, from the Anti-Forest Mafia Coalition, in a written statement sent to gres.news.

What’s interesting, the organization said, is that the judges stated PT National Sago Prima is responsible for forest and land fires that occurred in their concession, regardless whether the company was behind the fire.

The judges explained that this complies with Article 16 Verse 6 of the Minister of Environment and Forestry Regulation on Forest Fire Control, which states: Holders of utilization permit, and holders of forest rights and conserved forest rights are responsible for putting out fire in their concession area.

This (the ruling) forces companies to operate appropriately, especially in guarding their concession area against fire, which occurs almost every year, the coalition stated.

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