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)

Joko Vows Zero Tolerance for Police, Military Officials Who Fail to Prevent Forest Fires


JANUARY 19, 2016

Jakarta. President Joko Widodo has threatened the jobs of police and military officials if they fail to prevent forest and land fires for recurring this year and calling for stricter enforcement of slash-and-burn laws and more effective prevention methods.

“I have coordinated with the National Police chief [Gen. Badrodin Haiti] and the Indonesian Military commander [Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo] to implement the reward and punishment system. If there are a lot of forest and land fire cases, dismiss and replace [officials]. Conversely, those with good performances will be promoted,” the President said on Monday, as quoted by Tempo.co.

Joko advocated coordination and cooperation among police and military officials with the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) and the Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Forestry to stop the fires from occurring this year.

“The BNPB does not have any troops but the National Police and the military do. The regional military commanders, regional police chiefs, military resort commands, district police chiefs, everyone has to be deployed," he said.

"You have to make actual visits to the fields, don't just sit behind your desks."

Regional leaders, such as governors, mayors and district heads, must also play a role in mitigating forest fires, mainly through financing and assisting in the logistical and technical support for volunteers and officials, the President said.

Hundreds of thousands of residents in Sumatra and Kalimantan — and neigboring Malaysia and Singapore — were blanketed in thick haze for months last year, caused by forest fires in the two Indonesian islands. Tens of thousands were treated for respiratory illnesses and eye infections.

Indonesia lost over two million hectares of forest area during last year's fire crisis, data published by the National Space and Aviation Agency (Lapan) showed, causing massive economic losses and decreased productivity.