ONE day after President Joko Widodo signed the Glasgow Declaration at the climate change gathering Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, to stop degradation and deforestation by 2030, Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya wrote on her Twitter account on Monday, November 1: “Major developments in Jokowi’s era cannot be stopped in the name of carbon emission and deforestation.”
This tweet received a wave of online criticism, many disagreeing with such a statement by an official who is supposed to protect the environment and control forestry management so as not to damage the earth. But it goes further, Deputy Foreign Minister Mahendra Siregar also said that signing the Glasgow Declaration does not mean Indonesia would reach zero deforestation, which caused further public indignation and sparked jeers from international media.
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Since April, Tempo has been preparing coverage about planned deforestation in Papua. An interview request was sent to Minister Siti Nurbaya with the main question: Why has the government allowed the crooked plans of companies with concession rights destroy Papua’s forests? Tempo found that these companies commit a variety of violations that go against sustainable forestry management.
Minister Siti has yet to answer Tempo’s request. Usually, she is very quick to reply to questions about forestry management policies, even though the answers are incomplete. Tempo then sent the questions to the new Director-General for Sustainable Forestry Management, Agus Justianto, on July 26. Agus then asked that the questions be sent to Istanto, the Director for Production Forests.
Istanto agreed to answer Tempo’s questions, and made an appointment for two days after that. However, a day before the scheduled interview, he canceled the appointment with the excuse of having to go to a meeting. He then did not reply when asked repeatedly to reschedule the interview. The same happened with Environment Secretary-General Bambang Hendroyono. Environment Ministry Spokesperson Nunu Anugrah only said that the letters had already reached the directors.
Two of Minister Siti’s senior advisors, Agus Pambagyo and Sarwono Kusumaatmadja, also declined to answer questions on deforestation in Papua. Agus suggested that Tempo contact Chalid Muhammad, another advisor of Siti’s. This former executive director of the Indonesian Forum for Environment (Walhi) then suggested that Tempo contact Rasio Ridho Sani, the ministry’s Director-General for Law Enforcement. Rasio first agreed to meet, but never responded again after reading the question sent by Tempo.
Planned deforestation in Papua should not go against the principals of sustainable forest management, as Indonesia already has the timber legality verification system (SVLK), which is now called the legality and sustainability verification system. The Indonesian government frequently boasts the SVLK as the best system to realize sustainable forest management.
At the COP26 forum on Thursday, November 4, Agus Justianto gave a speech promoting the SVLK as a “policy and systems tool to improve good forestry management.” Through the SVLK, Agus said, Indonesia supports the growth and marketing of legal and sustainable forest products, in order to curb forest destruction. The SVLK, he continued, has been proven to increase trade in legal and controlled forest products.
Forestry ministry officials present at this online meeting did not answer Tempo’s questions regarding proof of SVLK violations in Papua. After the meeting, Tempo met with Istanto to ask about the planned deforestation in Papua. He proceeded to summon his assistant Yoga Prayoga, Sub-Directorate Head of Forest Product Certification and Marketing, to answer the question.
Yoga then gave an extensive explanation regarding the SVLK and why there are still gaps within it that makes violations in Papua’s planned deforestation possible. However, at the end of the conversation, he asked that his whole explanation be off-the-record, as he is not the ministry’s spokesperson.