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Flood victims want justice, death for illegal loggers BOHOROK - Relatives of more than 100 people killed in the recent devastating flood in North Sumatra demanded the immediate arrests of illegal loggers on Thursday, as police moved to find those involved in the rampant deforestation blamed for the flood. The victims called the loggers who had encroached into the Mount Leuser National Park "terrorists" and said that they should be sentenced to death.
Not only did the illegal loggers cause the deaths of so many people living near the park in Bahorok subdistrict, Langkat regency, but destroyed all their assets and their future, they argued. Syahrizal, a 19-year-old survivor, said that the illegal loggers must be held responsible for the flood that swept through the Bukit Lawang resort town in Bahorok, some 100 kilometers from the North Sumatra capital Medan, on Sunday night.
"They are crueler than terrorists," he told The Jakarta Post at a camp set up for the flood victims in Bukit Lawang. "We urge authorities not only to catch the workers perpetrating the illegal logging, but also all those profiting from it," said Syahrizal, who lost his two parents and four brothers and sisters. Similarly, Minister of the Environment Nabiel Makarim also labeled the illegal loggers "terrorists" because they had caused the deaths of many innocent people.
It is extremely difficult for authorities to prosecute them (those profiting from illegal logging) because they are corrupt officials and businesspeople, he said. Military, police and other officials are widely known to profit from illegal logging across the country. But no concrete action has been taken against them. Another victim Amanah, 27, who lost her daughter, similarly called for justice. "Leaders and law enforcers should not think about how to make themselves richer, by backing illegal logging many people have suffered.
"The government must take firm action against them, so as to prevent this tragedy from recurring," she said. Separately, spokesman for the North Sumatra Police Sr. Comr. Amrin Karim said his office has set up a team to investigate illegal activities related to the deforestation of the park. The team will comb forest areas upstream of the Bahorok river to identify the location of illegal logging activities and to catch the culprits behind them, he added.
Officials have said that the floods hit after dams -- created naturally by the accumulation of logs upstream -- burst, washing other huge logs and debris onto the riverbanks. The logs and debris, along with mud, then surged toward homes and cottages near the riverbanks, destroying many. Amrin said that the police would also revive the Wanalaga operation which had been set up to stop illegal logging in North Sumatra. Through the operation -- launched between Aug. 12 and Sept. 19, 2003 -- the police found 53 cases of log theft in several protected forests, including the Leuser park. At least 83 suspects were arrested and thousands of cubic-meters of logs seized as evidence, he said.
However, he admitted that many other suspects had been able to avert arrest as they had produced the proper documents. On the fourth day of the search for missing victims, Thursday, rescuers found eight more bodies, bringing the death toll to 119. Seven of the eight bodies could not be identified as they were already decomposed, according to the Disaster Relief Agency in Bukit Lawang. The agency also said that at least 138 victims were still missing and feared dead. The grim search will be called off two weeks from Monday. Those not found will be declared dead, officials said.
Meanwhile, Langkat Regent Syamsul Arifin said his administration plans to relocate around 400 families from residential areas near the riverbanks. The local government has prepared 20 hectares of land belonging to state-owned plantation firm PT Perkebunan Nusantara II, he added. But he did not say where the land is located. However, the regent said the plan needs the approval of Minister of State Enterprises Laksamana Sukardi to be realized. "They (the victims) will no longer be allowed to live near riverbanks because it is dangerous. We will resettle them in a higher location," Arifin said.



Posted in Weather @ 07 November 2003 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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