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Indonesia’s Forestry Minister Upset Over Harrison Ford Interview

Harrison Ford meets Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Photo from website of Indonesian government

Harrison Ford meets Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Photo from website of Indonesian government

Harrison Ford of ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘Star Wars’ fame stirred controversy in Indonesia when Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan accused the actor of behaving badly during an interview about the country’s deforestation problem. Ford visited Indonesia to make a documentary film on climate change. Zulkifli complained that Ford didn’t give him enough time to answer some questions during the interview:

The interview time was very limited. I was given a chance to make only one or two comments.

I understand the American man just came here to see Tesso Nilo [a national park on Sumatra island] and wanted violators to be caught the same day.

Zulkifli’s complaint was echoed by a presidential special staffer on social affairs and disaster relief who described Ford’s behavior as “harassment against a state institution”.

But the incident also sparked discussion about the effectiveness of the government’s environment policies especially its failure to prosecute individuals and companies involved in forest fires that caused a deadly haze in the region a few months ago.

Comments left by readers of Jakarta Post reflected the frustration of many Indonesians about the country’s worsening environment woes. Abdul Malik thinks Ford is correct:

Ford is correct. Why is nobody in jail and all their assets taken? Is the minister looking for sympathy?

Sput Jam asks about the slow progress in resolving the issue of forest fires:

How many plantation and land owners have been charged in court for burning to clear their land in Riau?

Next year, it will be the same again. The only difference is the wind direction.

According to Refly Turbo, the interview turned out well because it forced the minister to account for his responsibility in overseeing the protection of the country’s forests:

That was probably the first time in his life that the forestry minister was held accountable. Good work, Mr. Ford.

Ford’s visit to a national park in Indonesia was documented on video.

Here are some reactions on Twitter:

Commenting on the complaint of the minister, jacen believes the state of Indonesia’s forests is more shocking than Ford’s behavior:

What is sad is that the Forestry Minister isn't harassed every day of his life about Indonesia's environmental record. I can understand that they were shocked by the documentary's tone, but what Indonesia is doing to its forests is far more shocking. I find these government ministers so incredible that they cannot take any criticism whatsoever because they are surrounded by their cronies, and believe retaining the status quo is acceptable.

Regardless of whether global warming is a reality, Indonesia is cutting down its rain forests at a disgraceful rate.

Unspun reminded the minister to be more prepared during interviews:

…a minister who should have been prepped on what to say and how to answer the tough questions in the first place; a Minister who, if he was honest with himself, would know that Indonesia’s record on climate change ain’t, excuse the pun, that hot.

So we have this minister being shocked and taking umbrage that someone dared ask him tough questions in a tough manner. What did he expect? A supporting role as Indiana Jones’s sidekick? Chewbaca articulating questions that no one understands except Han Solo?

Phelim Kine urged the government to review the country’s forest laws:

Although the government touts its forestry practices as a model of sustainable “green growth,” much of Indonesia’s logging remains off the books and its revenues never reach government coffers. That reflects a failure to enforce existing laws and regulations which in turn, spawn widespread land conflicts that often turn violent. These problems of a corrupt, opaque forestry sector pose a far greater threat to Indonesia than any aging Indiana Jones.

Meanwhile, a lawmaker supported the minister and demanded the expulsion of World Wide Fund for Nature in the project to preserve a local national park.

Ford also met Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and they discussed the various efforts and programs to preserve the country’s forests.

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