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He’s Gone Again – ‘Jailed’ Timber Crime Cop Once More on the Run



Labora Sitorus, Corrupt Indonesian policeman, jailed in 2014 for 15 years for large-scale timber theft - Jubi

Labora Sitorus, Corrupt Indonesian policeman, jailed in 2014 for 15 years for large-scale timber theft – Jubi

Jayapura, Jubi – An Indonesian policeman who was jailed in 2014 for 15 years for large-scale timber theft is once again on the run.
Corrupt Indonesian policeman, jailed in 2014 for 15 years for large-scale timber theft, is once again on the run.

Sorong Police and Justice & Human Rights Ministry officials went to the former Chief Brigadier’s home for an arranged transfer to a prison in Jakarta but found him gone.

A total of 683 officers from West Papua police had joined officials to pick him up on Friday (March 4) but were told he had left the evening before and nobody knew of his whereabouts.

This is not the first time Sitorus has ridiculed due legal process; he was first given permission to leave Sorong prison in March 2014 to seek medical attention but never returned. After being placed to a list of West Papua’s most-wanted, police found and re-arrested him in February last year.
He was then allowed to leave prison in October 2015 to undergo treatment at a local hospital after a reported stroke and heart problems. During this time he was said to be living at home and enjoying a normal life, including attending family festivities as well as a wedding in December 2015.
The transfer of Sitorus to Jakarta was for health reasons so he could be treated while serving time.

“This has now become a farce of the highest magnitude. Indonesian officials and the rogue police officers who benefit from a corrupt system are making the country a laughing stock,” said EIA Forest Campaign Team leader Faith Doherty to Jubi.

She added that Labora Sitorus had bank accounts containing up to Rp1.5 trillion and was found guilty in a court of law of the very serious charges of illegal logging, fuel-hording and money laundering. Whoever is harbouring him is effectively complicit in these crimes.

“For all those who have risked their lives investigating this policeman and his criminal syndicate, and for all those champions within Government, including the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPATK), to have this thrown in their faces again is unacceptable. This man is a crook and should be behind bars,” she added.

The Sitorus case has played out like a black comedy from the start.

Following a legal wrangle over a startlingly lenient first verdict handed down early in 2014 by a court in West Papua, State prosecutors appealed to Indonesia’s Supreme Court and in September 2014 Sitorus was sentenced to 15 years and ordered to pay Rp5 billion in fines.

However, when the state prosecutor’s office sought to formally execute the Supreme Court’s verdict, Sitorus not actually in Sorong Prison.

Prison head Maliki Hasan reportedly stated Sitorus was allowed to leave the facility to seek medical treatment in March 2014 but did not return.
The corrupt lawman was originally charged with illegal logging, fuel smuggling and money laundering but was originally found guilty of just one charge – illegal logging – and sentenced to a mere two years in prison with a US$4,000 fine.

He was acquitted of money laundering, despite evidence showing US$127 million passed through his accounts.

An initial appeal filed by prosecutors led to Sitorus being convicted of money laundering and jailed for eight years by the High Court of Jayapura, Papua, on May 2, 2014.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released video footage in May 2013 of illegal loggers harvesting merbau and other species for Sitorus’ timber company, PT Rotua, from forests on Batanta island in the ecologically outstanding Raja Ampat archipelago of West Papua – a potential World Heritage site candidate

PT Rotua also reportedly received timber from the forests of Sorong, Aimas, Bintuni and other regions of West Papua. (Victor Mambor)


The story of illegal logging from the forests of Papua



Illegal timbers – an illustration.

Jayapura, Jubi – Tempo journalist Avit Hidayat shared his experience in doing an investigation about the circulation of illegal timbers from Papua’s forest as a resource person for the discussion about “ Papua’s Forest and Logging Disputes”.

Auriga Nusantara, Eyes on the Forest, Tempo Institute, Free Press Unlimited, and Tempo Media Grup held this forum in Jakarta, Monday, 28 January 2019 and attended by other resource persons, such as Laode M. Syarif (KPK commissionaire), Rasio Ridho Sani (Gakkum-KLHK), Hilman Nugroho (PHPL-KLHK) Muhamad Kosar (JPIK), Timotius Murib (Majelis Rakyat Papua) and Papuan stakeholders from indigenous peoples, Papuan Parliament and Papua Provincial Forestry Office.

In the discussion, Avit said it is essential for the public to know about the situation in Papua. “The tropical forests in Papua are the last (forests) in Indonesia, while the Merbau wood which is the Papuan endemic trees have been becoming the target of the international market,” he said. 

Furthermore, Avid said he conducted the investigation in many different places and interviewed many resource persons; and in Papua, the Tempo team went further to the logging sites. There, they witnessed how the workers who come from other regions carried out the illegal logging activity. They also met transporters, woodmasters, drivers, and logging company staffs.

“And the most important thing is we met the supplier. The supplier is a mediator of the logging companies who play a role to bargain with ‘ondo’—the tribal chief–for compensation. For example, if in a village there are common indigenous lands, the supplier comes to measuring the areas, and give payment to indigenous peoples.”

In their investigation, the Tempo team also met the owners of a logging company who later admitted about the illegal logging activity.  However, they called it the unregistered community logging.

Meanwhile, in Aroba Sub-district of Teluk Bintuni, Papua Barat, the team went to the forest areas of the company who received the Business License for the Utilization of Natural Forest and Timber Product (IUPHHK-HA) that formerly known as a Forest Concession Permit (HPH). There, the team found the manipulation of a wood barcode. For instance, the barcode for ketapang wood is used for Merbau wood.

Moreover, the team also investigated the primary industry in Papua, Surabaya, Lumajang, Gresik by tracing the distribution of logs. Here, they found another finding, namely the fake transport data and officials’ involvement, whereas the illegal retribution practice has also become their another concern.

In their journey from Sarmi to Jayapura Municipality, the team discovered 25 retribution posts that consist of the indigenous institution, police (military) and Forestry Office. “This is the fact that we found, but I couldn’t capture it because it was too risky. We even witness a military truck used to transport the logs.”

Furthermore, the Tempo team met the export logging companies and found those companies able to export up to 6,000-meter cubic annually, while based on the Forest Product Information Management System (SIPUH), they only allowed to export around 100-meter cubic.

“In Surabaya, we went to a barge and talked with an officer. He said not all logs are given barcode. A few logging companies intentionally inserted non-barcode logs or illegal logs in there. They are mostly the HPH holders, and they even put the timbers between the logs.”

However, all these findings did not include in the audit industry report registered in the Timber Legality and Verification System Legality and Verification System (SVLK) which consist of the Assessment Agency for Sustainable Forest Production Management (LP-PHPL) and Timber Verification Agency (LV-LK). Both agencies are responsible for assessing the sustainable forest product management and verify the legality aspect of timber based on the system and standards set by the government.

“We also got the information about the involvement of LV-LK and LP-PHPL, which means they play around with such companies and culprits from the forestry office. I think the KPK has identified these cases.”

In the meantime, a resource person from the National Accreditation Committee (KAN) acknowledged that there were bribery practices in the LV-LK. The audit report had often finished before the field assessment.

Meanwhile, the participants appreciated the findings of Tempo’s investigation. They expected the government to find a solution immediately, whether it’s a regulation or supervision and law enforcement.

On the other hand, a representative of LV-LK objected this report regarding the bribery practices in his institution. But Avit said until now none of the resource persons withdrew their statements and opposed the result of the team’s investigation.

Meanwhile, Agung Wijaya, Avit’s editor for this covered story, said he was worried about Avit’s safety during the investigation. But finally, this report was completed and published.

He further said Tempo had traced the case of illegal logging since 2017. Thus, publishing the investigation report becomes a moral burden for Tempo. Therefore Tempo will continue to monitor this issue and welcome other stakeholders who attended this forum for further discussion.

Through this coverage, Tempo attempted to look the case thoroughly even though it might not give a solution because the solution is actually in the hand of all of you (who come to this forum).” (*)


Reporter: Timoteus Marten

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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Indonesian military to complete Trans-Papua Highway



Indonesian soldiers participate in a major military jungle warfare exercise in Poso, in central Sulawesi island, on March 31, 2015. -Photo: AFP

Papua, Jubi – Officials working on a troubled road project in Papua say Indonesia’s military will complete the job this year.

In December, at least 16 Indonesians working on the Trans-Papua Highway in Nduga province were massacred by fighters from the West Papua Liberation Army.

The project was put on hold with the military saying it would take over work on the 4000 kilometre highway.

Combat engineers will reportedly carry out the construction, with hundreds of extra security personnel deployed to the area.

Detik News reports a military battalion has been assigned to the building of the project’s remaining 16 bridges.

Indonesian army engineers had already been working on the Trans-Papua Highway project for a number of years.

Military involvement in the project was cited by the Liberation Army as a central reason for killing the road workers, who were suspected of being soldiers. (*)



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Indonesian soldier dead after attack at Papua airport



Members of the Indonesian Army in Papua. -Photo: AFP

Papua, Jubi – Indonesia’s military has evacuated the body of a soldier killed at an airport in Papua’s Highlands on Monday.

Xinhua reported that gunmen shot at an arriving aircraft carrying soldiers at Mapenduma airport of Nduga district, leaving one soldier dead.

Military spokesman Colonel Muhammad Aidi said when the plane was about to land, it was shot at, and soldiers who were guarding the airport shot back, triggering gunfire exchange.

He said the gunmen retreated and escaped to the forest and the plane landed.

Tempo reported that two soldiers were shot, and hospitalised, with one dying later.

The soldier’s body has been evacuated to Papua’s provincial capital Jayapura,

He is the latest apparent victim in the Highlands conflict between guerilla forces of the West Papua Liberation Army and Indonesian security forces that intensified last year. (*)



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