A child walks on a street in the Central Kalimantan capital of Palangkaraya, as a motorcycle fades into the acrid haze caused by forest fires. (Photo courtesy of Bjorn Vaughn)

Activist Blames Former Forestry Minister for Haze Crisis


NOVEMBER 01, 2015

Jakarta. A leading anti-haze activist has accused the chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly of allowing corporations to burn forests and causing the haze crisis.

Zulkifli Hasan, former Forestry Minister from 2009 to 2014 under president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's administration, allegedly granted permission to various corporations to burn over 1.3 million hectares of forest areas to be used for plantations. The finding is based on ministerial data from 2010 to 2013.

“All of the permissions had been signed by Zulkifli Hasan who, at that period of time, was serving as the Forestry Minister in the [Second] United Indonesia Cabinet,” Syahrul Fitra, an activist, said on Saturday, as quoted by tempo.co.

Syahrul, organizer of the #MelawanAsap (#FightHaze) campaign through the online petition platform change.org, has called on law enforcers to investigate and punish all officials allegedly responsible for the months-long disaster.

“Don't let this disaster continue repeating every year without anyone being responsible for it,” he said, while also urging the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to investigate possible graft related to the granting of permission.

Syahrul's online petition was launched on Friday and has so far attracted 6,355 supporters.

“When I was still at the office, I did not do it. If they want me [legally processed], I will face it,” Zulkifli Hasan, also the National Mandate Party (PAN) chairman, said on Saturday.

Over 2 million hectares of forest area across Indonesia has been reduced to ash in the past five months, according to National Space and Aviation Agency (Lapan) data. The final figure is expected to grow.