When staring into the eyes of our closest relatives, the Great Apes, innocence and wisdom is reflected back at our complicated lives. Gistok, a famous orangutan from Tanjung Puting National Park, would spend hours with visitors to the park – playing, watching, learning and teaching. His innocence was shattered when he disappeared, probably killed by illegal loggers. Perhaps the reflection in his eyes was too frightening.
Indonesia has entered a period of great change and has the opportunity to move towards social and environmental justice. Many of its vast forests have already been wrecked by companies owned by the few businesses that benefited from collusion, corruption and nepotism during the Soeharto regime. Local people have been oppressed by these companies, often through the authoritarian apparatus of the police, army and forest department. Across Indonesia, the situation is so bad that illegal logging now outstrips legal timber production.
It is no wonder that thousands of people have reacted to the current political void by taking the law into their own hands. But this is not a simple grassroots uprising, it is orchestrated by the very same people who have made their fortunes during the Soeharto era – timber barons who encourage this lawlessness for their own financial gain. EIA and Telepak’s investigations have identified some of these people who must be dealt with immediately. Their factories and sawmills must be closed down and corrupt individuals in authority who protected them must be replaced.