Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Telapak E.I. - Environmental Investigators

Hidden cameras, undercover work, kidnapping, attempted murder… in the jungles of Kalimantan. This sounds like Hollywood, but it is the real life story of the guys of TELAPAK.

Created in the mid-90s, they started out as nature-trekkers/environmental activists who wanted to do more for mother nature. So they set up an organization that sets out to uncover the evils of men who rob nature (and the country) of its resources.

This is what M. Yayat from TELAPAK shared with us last Friday during our sharing session. He went on and told us about an incident when the Director of Telapak was captured and detained in Central Kalimantan. TELAPAK chartered a Fokker plane from Jakarta to go and extract the kidnapped director, but as the plane was getting near the airstrip, they were told by air traffic controller to turn around. They couldn't believe the last minute order, and as they proceeded with the final approach, they found that the whole airstrip was pitch black. No lights whatsover. They were circling around above the Kalimantan forest for a while before finally landing at a nearby airstrip. TELAPAK believe that the kidnapping, and also the airstrip incident was the work of the biggest illegal logger in the area, who makes so much money out of his illicit business that he owns the region, the political parties, the authorities, and whoever would take his money.

Working for TELAPAK is certainly no easy task. Your life could be constantly in danger. One of the reasons that M. Yayat himself has recently been working in HQ, is that after his recent investigation and findings in Papua he's been a wanted man by the mafia and their cronies there.

One of our questions was whether the evidence that TELAPAK collected are submitted submissable in court, since most of them were obtained either illegally (by trespassing, using fake ID and papers, etc). Yayat said that law enforcers have so far been less interested in how the evidence are gathered. This gets us worried because as these evidence are obtained illegaly, then perhaps those who are incriminated by the evidence can get away with... perhaps smarter lawyers and paying off more people?

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