TNI gets tough with illegal loggers

The Jakarta Post, Medan | Archipelago | Mon, June 09 2014

Bukit Barisan regional military command (Kodam) chief Maj. Gen. Istu Hari Subagio has vowed to take stern action against any Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel involved in illegal logging and/or forest burning in North Sumatra’s forest conservation area, the state of which has worsened.

“Bear in mind that no soldiers or civil servants are above the law. We will mete out stiff sanctions against any corrupt soldier,” Subagio said in a speech, during a ceremony to discharge a TNI soldier who had been found guilty of illegal logging at the Bukit Barisan Kodam in Medan, North Sumatra, recently.

The Bukit Barisan Kodam oversees the territorial defense command of four provinces: North Sumatra, West Sumatra, Riau Islands and Riau.

TNI chief sergeant Sudikdo, who serves at the Wira Bima military command post (Korem) in Pekanbaru, Riau, was dishonorably discharged from the Army after being found guilty of involvement in illegal logging and burning forested land in Bengkalis regency, Riau.

Subagio said that Sudikdo deserved to be discharged from the TNI for repeatedly committing these offenses. Subagio added that some of the offenses committed by Sudikdo included fuel hoarding in 2000, when he was sentenced to three months and 15 days in jail.

Three years later, Subagio said, Sudikdo had been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment and fined Rp 500 million (US$42,158) for illegal logging and forest burning in Riau. This year, Sudikdo was caught once again burning forested land, which contributed to the thick haze in Bengkalis.

When asked what Sudikdo’s role had been in the forest burning, Subagio said the case was still being investigated but added that he had obviously not worked alone.

“He was from the military, while it seems that his accomplices in the burning came from the private sector,” he said.

“The discharge is an indication of how serious the Bukit Barisan Kodam is in upholding the law firmly, consistently and indiscriminately,” Subagio added.

Meanwhile, Bukit Barisan Kodam chief spokesman Col. Samuel Petrus Hehakaya said the discharge of the TNI member was the first to take place at the military command this year.

Samuel added that the Kodam would continue to monitor the behavior of TNI soldiers in the field, especially those who were under suspicion of being involved in illegal logging and forest burning.

Previously, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) held a workshop in Medan that highlighted widespread illegal logging in the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (TRHS) site.

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