Indonesia’s Minister of the Environment and Forestry, Siti Nurbaya, has suspended the operations of PT Rimba Lazuardi (RL), one of APRIL’s long-term suppliers located in Sumatra’s Riau province, as the company was found to have committed a number of violations with respect to last year’s forest fires. According to the Indonesian web platform Foresthints.news, the suspension of the company’s operations took effect from the middle of March 2016.

Based on the ministerial decree suspending the operations of the APRIL supplier, its violations include not exercising control over forest fires in its concession area as well as not exercising control over air pollution originating from the fires.

In addition, Rimba Lazuardi is also said to have failed to perform its waste management obligations in accordance with Indonesia’s applicable laws and regulations. This includes not reporting on the implementation of environmental management plans and not paying due regard to environmental functions.

“This is an environmental case. It should be brought into the realm of law enforcement. The government needs to demonstrate that it is taking clear legal steps to deal with incidents of forest fires such as those involving this company,” Riko Kurniawan, Executive Director of Walhi Riau (“Friends of the Earth Indonesia” Riau Office), told foresthints.news on Tuesday (Apr 12).

Riko added that the APRIL’s longterm supplier, along with any other companies which had incurred similar administrative sanctions, should additionally be taken to court by the government to obtain legal clarity on their actions.

“For us as a civil society group, and also on behalf of the people of Riau, we would like to see the establishment of legal certainty through a trial process. If an accused company is duly convicted, then it must be severely punished. The Ministry of the Environment and Forestry needs to adopt a clear law enforcement strategy – a strategy which is based on providing legal certainty,” he asserted.

Meanwhile, APRIL reacted to the suspension of PT RL’s operations by declaring that it had been an unauthorized operation: “PT SRL reported to APRIL that the company has filed a report with the police for them to undertake further investigation on this possible unauthorized activity in Rupat concession” report the APRIL web site

“APRIL’s explanation doesn’t make any sense. Even if a company has its permit suspended, it is not allowed to simply relinquish all responsibility for the control of its concession area. How is it possible that this “unauthorized activity” could take place? It clearly makes no sense at all,” Woro Supartinah, Coordinator of Jikalahari (The Riau Forest Rescue Network), told Foresthints.news.

Environment and Forestry Ministry  will brequests detailed explanations to APRIL:  “We will be sending a letter to PT SRL requesting a detailed explanation of what is meant by ‘unauthorized activity’, including an explanation about certain developments stemming from its report to the police,” said Bambang Hendroyono, Secretary General at the Environment and Forestry Ministry to Foresthints.news

APRIL added that  PT RL is one of APRIL’s suppliers and not an affiliate or subsidiary of the APRIL Group. Vanda Mutia Dewi, Executive Director of Greenomics Indonesia, reacted to the development by saying that in reality PT RL’s operations are controlled by APRIL, so the pulp and paper giant is misleading the public by giving the impression that this company is merely an independent supplier. “APRIL cannot just wash its hands of this issue, as if the company’s operations are not under its control. On the contrary, APRIL actually does exercise control over the operations of what it says is just a supplier. APRIL must acknowledge that it is responsible,” Vanda explained to foresthints.news.

Vanda pointed out that this was the case not only for PT RL. In fact, the operations of another company which had its license suspended by the ministry in November 2015, PT Sumatera Riang Lestari (SRL), were also under the control of APRIL. “The operations of APRIL-owned concessions, including those of its long-term suppliers, are controlled by the management of APRIL. This is a fact,” said Vanda emphatically.