Indonesian National Chief of Police Gen. Tito Karnavian has ordered recently-appointed Riau Regional Police Chief, Brigadier General Zulkarnain to re-investigate 15 companies suspected of being involved in forest and land fires in 2015.
The companies were issued Surat Penghentian Penyelidikan Perkara (SP3), or Cessation of Case Research, letters. SP3 letters signal the termination of investigations, and are issued when there is not enough evidence, or when the case is discovered to not be criminal in nature during the investigations.
Zulkarnain replaces Riau Police Chief Brigadier General Supriyanto.
It was Supriyanto’s predecessor, former Riau Police Chief Brigadier General Bambang Dolly H who had issued SP3 letters to the 15 corporations, Riau Online reported on 2 October. The issuance of the SP3 letters came to light only six months later during Supriyanto’s term.
After the handover ceremony at the State Police School in Pekanbaru on Saturday (1 Oct), Zulkarnain said to reporters, “Regarding the SP3, National Chief of Police directly ordered me to form a special team to re-investigate the case.”
He added that he had also been ordered to collaborate with environmental activist to resolve last year’s cases involving companies alleged to have been responsible for land and forest burning.
“Beside the special team, I also plead with other activists to help me,” he said.
Zulkarnain, who was former the police chief of North Maluku, urged people and corporations to stop burning the land, regardless of the circumstances.
“The penalty is heavy, do not burn anymore. The police do not delight in arresting people for burning. The police does not hate the person, but the actions,” he concluded.
Earlier, National Police Chief Gen. Tito Karnavian explained that he had summoned Supriyanto to the Police Headquarters to explore the use of rigorous forensic investigation, especially for cases involving forest and land fires in Riau.
“The problems in Riau are multi-faceted, requiring intelligence and investigation; and understanding why the SP3 letters were issued,” said Karnavian at Police Headquarters in Jakarta, Friday, 30 September.
In July last year, forest fires raged across Riau. In relation to the fires,15 companies and 25 people were hauled to court. However, three months later, the police issued SP3 letters to the 15 companies in January 2016.
Head of the Police Criminal Investigation Bureau, Commissioner-General Ari Dono Sukmanto, previously explained that there were at least three reasons why the cases were halted, reported Kompas.
He said the first reason is that the burned areas no longer belonged to the companies because they had been returned. Second, although there was a dispute on burnt land, the lands were not owned by the companies.
“Third, the companies had attempted to extinguish the fire, according to the infrastructure facility studies. The experts said there was no element of intent or negligence,” said Ari Dono at the Parliament Complex at Senayan, Jakarta on 26 July 2016.
Ari Dono also said they were still investigating the process by which the SP3 letters were granted. However, he gave his assurance that the release of the SP3 had been the result of a process of inquiry and investigation. Investigators had called witnesses and experts during the investigation of the 15 companies.