Man jailed over forest fires that led to severe haze

PETALING JAYA - A Malaysian has been slapped with a year's jail for causing forest fires in Indonesia which led to the severe haze in Malaysia and Singapore.

The Jakarta Post reported that Danesuvaran KR Singam, who is a general manager at the plantation firm PT ADEI Plantation and Industry, a unit of Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad, was found guilty by the Pelalawan district court in Riau for violating Article 99(1) of the 2009 Environmental Protection and Management Law.

He was also fined two billion rupiah (RM539,507.36), for the offence.

Judge Donovan Pendapotan said Danesuvaran was negligent in his supervisory role of the estate and that he should have actively prevented irresponsible parties from slipping into the estate and setting the fires.

The court also fined ADEI 1.5 billion rupiah (RM404,814) for violating the same law or see the firm's director, Tan Kei Yoong sentenced to five months in prison.

Prosecutor Banu Laksmana said Danesuvaran would, however, not be sent to jail immediately as they needed to wait for a final and binding verdict from the Supreme Court.

"We will be appealing the sentence," Banu was reported saying.

The sentences have been deemed too light by some, including the law enforcement monitoring deputy at the Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development, Mas Achmad Santosa.

"The sentences are too light and fail to provide a deterrent effect. They do not reflect the court's sense of crisis about the impact of land and forest fires on our environment," Mas Achmad was quoted saying.

He, however, praised the court for finding the company and its top officials accountable in the case, as it was usually the low level operators who were punished.

The Indonesian Forum for the Environment's Riau chapter executive director Riko Kurniawan however, urged for quicker resolution to future forest fire cases, saying that the two cases had taken seven months.

Singapore and parts of Malaysia and Indonesia were blanketed by thick smoke as a result of slash and burn fires on plantations in Riau and Kalimantan between June and August last year.

Following that, Singapore passed a law that allows the city state to prosecute local and foreign firms involved in illegal forest burning that leads to severe air pollution.