Fidelis E. Satriastanti
The relative infrequency of indictments in forest fire cases highlights an acute shortage of investigators to probe environmental violations, an official said on Tuesday.
“The speed of law enforcement seems slow because of the number of available civilian investigators. For the Environment Ministry, the [number of] law enforcement officials can be counted on the hands,” said Sudariyono, the deputy for environmental compliance at the Environment Ministry.
Sudariyono added that those few officials dedicated to environmental law enforcement had to deal with a diverse caseload across the entirety of the archipelago.
“Ideally, there should be investigators in the region as the frontrunners, so that there is no dependence on investigators from the central government only. These can provide guidance,” he said.
However, he said central government personnel were preferred because they were seen as having fewer potential conflicts of interest in regional cases and immune to some of the pressures a local investigator might face.
In a bid to address the shortage, the ministry reached a cooperative agreement with judges and prosecutors.
“The joint agreement is to prevent dossiers from going back and forth. If necessary, prosecutors can also be present when witnesses are questioned, so as to save time,” he said.
Ministry data as of November 2010 show that there were a total of 554 civilian investigators in the civil service across the country, only 398 of whom were still active.
“By active I mean that they are assigned to environmental agencies in the region. Efforts to increase their number cannot produce more than 40 [annually] because of the limited capacity available,” Sudariyono said, referring to budgetary constraints.
He said that in 2011, only 36 new civilian investigators were appointed.
Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya earlier said that the country needed 1,600 additional civilian investigators.
“In some provinces, there is only one civilian investigator, making law enforcement difficult,” Balthasar said.
In an effort to draw talented civilian investigator recruits, the ministry has agreed with the National Civil Service Agency (BKN) to provide more “functional allowance” to those who take up the calling.
The ministry said it would also seek to prevent the transfer of existing civilian investigators to other posts unrelated to environmental law enforcement.