11 December 2007

[sobat-hutan] Guardian of Papua's Forests

 
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Sent: Wednesday, December 12, 2007 7:33 AM
Subject: [i-s] Tempo - Guardian of Papua's Forests

No. 15/VIII/December 11-17, 2007

Profile

Guardian of Papua's Forests

Governor Barnabas Suebu is fighting for the preservation of Papua's
forests. Time magazine named him one of its `Heroes of the Environment
2007'.

FORESTS are a caring mother. The local wisdom is strongly etched in
the mind of Barnabas Suebu. Since he was popularly elected as Governor
of Papua in July 2006, he has resolved to pay back Mother Forest for
her loving care. Barnabas, who is fondly called Bas by his people, has
since banned log exports from Papua and threatened timber companies
which ignore the ban with stiff penalties. Today, thanks to Barnabas's
firm resolve, the sound of chainsaws is slowly dying in the Papuan
forests.

To ensure sustainable forest development, Barnabas has launched a
program called `From Forest for Death to Forest for Life', tightening
the door to illegal logging and illegal timber trading. Barnabas wants
the Papuan forests to serve the interests of the poor. "People in
other countries can do this, why can't we?" Barnabas asks. `No Tree,
No Life' is the slogan he promotes to preserve the forests.

Last October Time magazine named Barnabas one of the `Heroes of the
Environment 2007' alongside Prince Charles of Great Britain, Nobel
Peace laureate and former US Vice President Al Gore, former Russian
statesman Mikhail Gorbachev, and German Prime Minister Angela Merkel.

Time's selection of Barnabas for the award is good news amid reports
of continued deforestation in other parts of Indonesia. "I was
surprised and moved by the honor," says the 61-year-old father of six
and former Indonesian Ambassador accredited to Mexico, Honduras and
Panama. "I returned the honor to the people of Papua." Barnabas says
it's the people who better deserve the honor as "owner" of the forests
of which only 31 million hectares today remain in the province.

Barnabas says the honor makes him even more conscious of his
responsibility. Barnabas carries a burden resulting from mismanagement
of the past that led to diminishing forests and increasing poverty. He
is determined not to repeat the past mistake. "We must act firmly to
protect the forests before it's too late," he says. "And apologize to
the people."

Deputy Governor Alex Hasegem says Barnabas's policy makes sense.
Further deforestation, he adds, would make the world's ozone layers
even more rarified, exposing life on earth to even greater danger.

•••

On Saturday two weeks ago, Barnabas recalled in a conversation with
Tempo at a five-star hotel restaurant in Jakarta an event three years
ago when he saw, during a visit to China, a million cubic meters of
logs from Papua piling up in a lumberyard in Shanghai. This, he said,
despite government regulations restricting movement of logs only from
one island to another in Indonesia.

Barnabas was shocked by what he saw. The logs which sold for only
US$10 per cubic meter in Papua fetched a price, after being
transformed into products in home industries, of US$1,500 per cubic meter.

The smugglers collected between US$200 and US$300 per cubic meter in
profits. "In this process there's cheating, impoverishment and keeping
the people ignorant," said Barnabas with emotion. The logs, he added,
could have been processed in home industries into products of value in
Papua like the Chinese did.

Barnabas has written a book titled Kami Menanam, Kami Menyiram,
Tuhanlah yang Menumbuhkan (We Plant and Water the Trees and God Makes
Them Grow). The book refers to the paradox existing in Papua: billions
of dollars going to the government coffers each year and the people
remaining poor because of corruption and mismanagement.

To protect the remaining forests Barnabas has availed himself of Law
No. 41/1999 on Forestry and the Law on Special Autonomy. At the same
time he has also submitted a draft regulation on forestry management
which is expected to be adopted by the provincial council next year

Meanwhile, the provincial government recently launched a program
designed to train 1,500 police officers for duty in the forests.
Barnabas said 90 percent of the trainees were native Papuans. A budget
of Rp30 billion has been allocated for the program that is expected to
improve law enforcement in the forestry sector.

Barnabas said he would emulate Singapore in enforcement of the law.
"Law enforcement needs to be enhanced as the people are made aware of
the need to respect the law," said Barnabas. To date, he added, many
breaches of law had gone unpunished. Barnabas said he would shortly
order an investigation of forestry offenders. "There is need for a
comprehensive audit of timber companies in Papua and a review of their
environmental impact analyses," said Barnabas who was a
government-appointed governor from 1988 to 1993.

Long before receiving the Time award, Barnabas had planned a workshop
on Papuan biodiversity in collaboration with Conservation
International and the government of neighboring Papua New Guinea. The
workshop planned for November was postponed to early next year with
the convening of the UN conference on climate change early this month.

Several leading environmentalists are expected to attend the workshop
to be held in the province where 50 percent of its forests have been
designated conservation areas with the richest biodiversity in the world.

The aim of the workshop is not only to protect Papuan forests but also
to promote ecotourism. Barnabas said he admired Costa Rica for
successfully promoting tourism in a country that has no army or
forestry ministry. Yet, Barnabas said, the Costa Rican government was
able to protect the country's forests, promote clean development and
begin carbon trading.

Barnabas said the Australian government had provided funding for the
preservation of the Cycloop natural forests. The Governor added that
he was also looking to a new financial scheme in carbon trading. "Why
cut the trees when other people are willing to pay us for keeping them
uncut?" he said.

Meanwhile, many investors have expressed interest in producing
biofuels from oil palm, sago, and castor oil plants in Papua.
Preliminary talks have been held with Medco, Sinar Mas, and Rajawali
group of companies on biofuel development in cooperation with Verda
from Malaysia. The three groups of companies are expected to invest
more than US$500 million in the venture.

Increasingly, Barnabas is moving forward with greater confidence on
his path for green development. Barnabas vowed he would go all-out and
continue moving on this path for the sake of his people. At stake, he
said, are the poor people of Papua.

•••

Born April 26, 1946, in Desa Ifale, Kecamatan Sentani, in the Jayapura
district, Barnabas grew up in a forest and river environment. "I am a
village child, born on a lake," he said. Fish is a favorite delicacy
of this third of four children of the couple Bonifasius Suebu and
Salomi Monim.

Barnabas is sensitive to his natural environment. "I can't sleep
witnessing the destruction of the mangrove forests," he said. On
graduation from high school, Barnabas continued his studies at the
Cendrawasih University Faculty of Law. Environment, however, remained
a focus of his attention

Barnabas shares a similar concern for the environment with Emil Salim,
former Environment Minister. "Pak Salim is my mentor," said Barnabas,
who is a member of the Golkar Party Advisory Council. Barnabas
admitted he learned a lot from other people. "I always call my friends
whenever I have a question to ask."

Emil Salim compared Barnabas with Sragen district chief Untung Wiyono.
Both men were elected by the people for their vision of development
for the poor. "He (Barnabas) is committed to his vision of development
from the bottom to the top," said Emil Salim.

But not everybody is all praises for the Papua Governor. Budi
Setyanto, Director of the Papua Institute for Civil Strengthening,
said Barnabas's concept of green development had yet to produce
concrete results. He called the environmental award conferred by Time
"premature". "The award should have been given only after his concept
had brought real benefits to the people," Setyanto said.

Emil Salim said Barnabas still had a long way to go to realize his
concept of lifting Papuans out of poverty. "The challenge he faces is
to make the people rich," said Emil Salim, who is head of the
Indonesian delegation to the Bali conference.

ND/Martha Warta Silaban, Cunding Levy (Jayapura)


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