Here's Roy Tupai on the subject. I sort of knew he wouldn't pass up this story ...
From Paras Indonesia http://www.parasindonesia.com/read.php?gid=490
October, 18 2006 @ 12:15 amPertamina Douses Flames Of Corruption, Negligence Claims
By: Roy Tupai
Arson and poor enforcement of Jakarta's fire safety regulations have been blamed for numerous fires at government and commercial office blocks over recent years. The city's latest high-rise fire severely damaged the top three floors of state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina's headquarters, razing the the firm's oil tanker operations division, but apparently the offices of the director and deputy director somehow escaped the flames.
The Jakarta Fire Department said Pertamina's fire protection system failed because the firm had not heeded warnings to comply with safety standards for high-rise buildings - charges that Pertamina's boss strongly denied. Company officials also denied that any crucial data was lost and played down rumors of arson, although police are yet to establish the cause of the blaze.
No one was injured in the fire that started at about 4am Monday (16/10/06) at the building on Jalan Medan Merdeka Timur, Central Jakarta. At least 31 fire trucks and 186 fire-fighters from the Jakarta Fire Department managed to extinguish the the blaze by midday, although dark smoke continued to billow from the building. Pertamina sent four of its own fire trucks to the building, while the National Police deployed three helicopters to douse the flames.
Local media reports said the fire started on the eastern side of the building's 19th floor and then spread upward to the 20th and 21st floors. The 19th floor houses the offices of deputy president director Iin Arifin Takhyan and the oil tanker operations division, while the 20th floor houses the offices of president director Ari H. Soemarno and his expert staff, and the 21st floor has an executive conference room.
Pertamina's regular office staff were told to take the day off and come back on Tuesday, except for those assigned to an emergency control team that later attempted to retrieve computer data from the smoldering ruins. The company's directors and commissioners began arriving at the headquarters at about 8am to observe the fire-fighting effort. Soemarno and Takhyan arrived by helicopter at 11.15am, cutting short their visit to Pertamina's Balongon and Cilacap refineries in West and Central Java. The executives then entered a nearby building for a lengthy meeting that was joined by Energy and Natural Resources Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro and State Enterprises Minister Sugiharto.
Detikcom online news portal reported that when the fire started, security guards failed to immediately call the fire department but instead spent nearly an hour trying to extinguish the blaze themselves. Unable to do so, they eventually called fire-fighters at about 5am. The guards' inability to overcome the blaze raised questions over whether the building was adequately equipped with fire extinguishers and whether the fire detection system and automatic sprinklers were functioning properly. It also prompted rumors of arson.
Jakarta Fire Department chief Martnono later confirmed that several smoke detectors and automatic sprinklers had malfunctioned, adding that Pertamina had been instructed to upgrade the equipment in August 2004 in compliance with a city regulation on fire safety. He said fire-fighters were hampered by the building's height and because all doors along in emergency stairwell were locked.
Fire Department spokesman Amanuddin A.S. said he suspected the fire was due to Pertamina's delay in replacing the building's electrical cables. "Two years ago we first warned them to replace the electrical cable installations with cables that met safety standards. We later gave them a second warning in August 2005," he was quoted as saying by the Kompas
He said that if the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit, then the blame could lie with Pertamina for delaying the the replacement of the cables. ”However, we should wait for the results of the police's investigation to know the cause," he added.
A fire truck with an extension ladder was unable to reach the top floors, so firefighters donned oxygen masks and climbed the stairs, only to find that all doors were locked. "As we ascended we were held back by the locked doors," said fire-fighter Sudiran. Fellow fireman Bambang Ibnu said the building's security guards should have helped to open the doors but they were nowhere to be found, so the firemen forced their way inside. "Perhaps the guards were at the security post, so we cut through the doors open with angle grinders," he said.
He also said the sprinkler system was not working on the floors hit by the fire, even though it should have come on automatically because the temperature his risen sufficiently to cause windows to shatter. "The sprinklers should be active when the temperature reaches 68 degrees Celsius. Windows had already broken, so it was hot enough to activate the sprinklers. Logically if the sprinklers had come on, everything would not have been burned so thoroughly like this," he said.
Soemarno admitted the Jakarta Fire Department had first reprimanded Pertamina in 2004 after finding the building did not meet fire safety standards and a second reprimand was issued in 2005 because the upgrading of its protection system was still incomplete. He said Pertamina had been advised to install an emergency lift and increase the building's number of hydrants, extinguishers, fire alarms, sprinklers, smoke-and-heat exhaust ventilation fans and emergency lights. He said the company had responded to the "recommendations" but was still in the lengthy process of installing the necessary items in stages. "Each improvement has been reported, but indeed they are not yet fully completed... We are doing it in stages. Even now the work is still ongoing," he said.
He denied that any part of the fire protection system had failed due to substandard equipment or electrical cables. "Everything worked well. This can be seen by the fact that the fire was successfully isolated to only three floors," he said.
"On the 18th floor, during the initial evacuation process, the sprinklers were already functioning, drenching everything. All of the water hydrants also worked well," he said.
Despite his adamance that Pertamina was not at fault, Soemarno on Tuesday said action would be taken against any employees if they were found have caused the fire through negligence. "We are waiting for the report from police. If there was negligence, we will take action, [but] we do not want to jump ahead or speculate." He then said all employees who were present when the fire started had already been questioned by police "and I might also take information from them".
He reiterated his denial that Pertamina had ignored warning letters from the Jakarta Fire Department to upgrade its fire protection system. "Yes, we we were carrying it out. Every time we made an improvement we had to report it."
Damages, Equine Art Victim & Business as Usual
Soemarno said said material losses were estimated at more than Rp10 billion, as most computers, furniture, paperwork, windows and other items on the top three floors had been destroyed. He said one of the biggest losses was a painting of horses presented to Pertamina in the 1970s by the artist Basuki Abdullah (who was murdered by burglars at his home in 1993). The 2 by 3 meter painting, which was displayed in the lobby leading to Soemarno's office, was estimated to be worth several billion rupiah.
"Rarely did Basuki Abdullah paint anything that big," said Soemarno. He did not know if the painting was insured. "We are now still discussing that with the insurance adjusters."
Soemarno said the building was generally undamaged from the ground floor to the 9th floor, while some windows had been deliberately smashed from the 8th to 16th floors to release smoke and heat, and a few parts of the 17th and 18th floors sustained fire damage. "The 19th floor was destroyed except for the southwestern corner where the deputy director's office is located. The 20th floor was very seriously damaged except for my office, and the 21st floor was also seriously damaged," he was quoted as saying by detikcom.
He said his office was covered in ash but otherwise unscathed. "The condition was relatively okay. The files I left on my desk were still there but there was a lot of ash," he said.
Soemarno said he expected police to soon give him the green light to reopen most of the building, except for the 18th to 21st floors, which will have to be rebuilt.
Pertamina commissioner Martiono Hadianto said all losses would be covered by the company's policy with insurance firm Tugu Pratama Indonesia. The corruption-tainted insurance firm is 45%-owned by Pertamina, while the Pertamina Pension Fund has a 20% stake, the Finance Ministry owns 17.5% and Suharto's crony Mohamad 'Bob' Hasan owns 17.5%.
Pertamina spokesman Muhammad Harun claimed that some important documents had been rescued from the offices of the president director and vice president director and moved to another building. After the fire had been extinguished, three Pertamina staff were sent via the emergency stairs to the 19th floor to look for tanker operations data stored on hard disks. A few reporters managed to accompany them and said nearly everything had been severely burned, while the floors were covered in mix of water and ash.
Soemarno denied any important documents had been destroyed, explaining that all vital is data stored on the building's 13th floor. "We didn't keep any important documents there [on the fire-damaged floors]. All our important documents are safe," he was quoted as saying by detikcom.
He also said Pertamina had back-up files of any documents that were destroyed in the fire. "There is back-up data in each of the [company's] directorates so we could save it."
He said that although the fire had paralyzed Pertamina's computer system, the firm's operational activities were not disrupted because nearly all are based on the 18th and lower floors. "We have ascertained the operational system is still proceeding well," he said, adding the fire had only affected the tanker operations division, so it was relocated to Pertamina's Shipping, Harbor and Communication Directorate located on Jalan Yos Sudarso in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta.
Soemarno insisted Pertamina's imports, exports and domestic distribution of oil products were unaffected. He said the only hitch was that the recording of fuel transactions had to be conducted manually at the nearby Pertamina commissioners' building.
He denied the fire would cause delays in the distribution of fuel products ahead of the Islamic holiday period of Lebaran. He said Pertamina has sufficient fuel stocks to last for 23.8 days, with premium sufficient for 16 days, diesel for 23 days and jet fuel for 28 days.
But that wasn't the case at certain gas stations in Jakarta, where motorists were informed on Monday afternoon that supplies of premium fuel had run dry because tanker trucks failed to make deliveries. Staff at one gas station on Jalan Cokroaminoto in Menteng, Central Jakarta, said the delay was probably due to the fire.
Most fires at residential buildings in Jakarta are attributed to electrical short circuits (caused by faulty wiring) or explosions of kerosene or gas stoves, whereas fires at high-rise buildings have often been linked to arson or poor adherence to safety regulations.
Legislator Ade Daud Nasution expressed suspicion the fire might have been deliberately lit to destroy evidence of corruption cases. He said it was regrettable that Pertamina had failed to comply fully with fire safety standards since being cautioned by the Jakarta Fire Department in August 2004. "This stubborn attitude could arouse public suspicion that this fire was deliberate in order to eliminate data or for another purpose," he was quoted as saying by detikcom.
Nasution said it made no sense for the fire to have started before dawn when there were no activities taking place on the upper floors. "The security guards there should have immediately reported the fire when it started. It doesn't make sense that the security guards did not report it as soon as possible," he said.
"This must be investigated thoroughly," he said, adding that all state buildings should be equipped with smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
Fellow legislator Alvin Lie concurred, saying there was a strong smell of arson to eliminate evidence of alleged corruption cases within Pertamina. "There are many Pertamina cases, starting from with the Lawe-Lawe case, the VLCC tankers case and others. Was that what was burnt in the management's rooms? This must be investigated," he was quoted as saying by detikcom.
In the first case, staff at Pertamina's Lawe-Lawe terminal in East Kalimantan province were in August 2005 found to have been routinely pumping crude oil to offshore chartered tankers, mostly bound for Singapore. The smuggled oil, which was supposed to have gone to Pertamina's Cilacap refinery, was reportedly sold for $35 a barrel, about a 50% discount on international prices then. In the second case, Pertamina in 2004 decided to sell two very large crude carrier (VLCC) tankers it had recently ordered from South Korea. The VLCCs had been ordered in an effort to reduce fuel transportation costs by $7 million annually and to tackle the company’s corrupt tanker chartering system. But by selling the new tankers, Pertamina would have to continue leasing tankers at higher than normal market rates from tycoons with strong political connections. The case became murkier after parliament had initially opposed the sale but then gave its tacit approval when Pertamina paid for several legislators and their wives to make a three-day "working visit" to Korea and Hong Kong to assess the financial feasibility of the deal. The legislators at first insisted that parliament paid for their trip, but a leaked Pertamina memo revealed the company had footed the bill.
Lie said police must uncover whether the Pertamina fire was caused by negligence or arson. He said it was unlikely that a short circuit had caused the fire because not much electricity would have been used at the building at 4am. He further said internal security at the managerial offices is very tight, yet somehow a fire managed to occur.
Soemarno declined to comment on rumors the fire had been deliberately lit. "I would not speculate about anything at this stage. Let the National Police's forensics team carry out their investigation," he said.
National Police deputy chief General Adang Darajatun said eight Pertamina employees and another person had been questioned as witnesses. The fire is being investigated by a joint team of forensics officers from the Central Jakarta Police, the Jakarta Police and National Police. "We have assigned a team from the forensics laboratory to ascertain the cause of fire," said Central Jakarta Police chief Bambang Hermanu. He could not say when the investigation was likely to be completed. "It depends on how quickly or slowly the team works," he said helpfully.
Jakarta Police chief Adang Firman said it was too early to determine whether the fire was an arson attack. National Police spokesman Ketut Untung Yoga Ana said the investigation would take time and careful research because the fire had caused extensive damage. He also declined to comment on the possibility of arson. "As professionals, police must base things on available facts. We cannot make assumptions."
A police line remained outside the Pertamina headquarters on Tuesday, but many staff ignored the barrier and were able to freely enter the building. Company officials later marshaled the building's approximately 2,000 staff outside the building and dispatched them to work temporarily in five other locations, some as far away as Tanjung Priok. No transport was provided to take them to their temporary offices.
Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso admitted that many of the city's high-rise buildings do not meet fire safety standards. He said all buildings must be properly equipped with fire prevention systems. "They must have the internal security. How could their fire extinguishing equipment malfunction?"
He said the Jakarta Fire Department lacks adequate equipment for dealing with high-rise fires. "In the past I visited Malaysia, where they use helicopters [for fire-fighting]. At that time I gave authorization [for the purchase of fire department helicopters], but then the Sukhoi case came up so it was stopped," he said, referring to the government's scandal-tainted purchase in 2003 of four Russian Sukhoi jet fighters and two MI-35 helicopters.
Sutiyoso promised to ensure that all high-rise buildings in the city comply with fire safety standards. He warned that penalties would be imposed against any recalcitrant building managers. He was reluctant to comment directly on the Pertamina fire, saying he lacked detailed information.
The Jakarta Fire Department has said up to 900 of the city's high-rise buildings, including many government offices, are susceptible to fire due to outdated electrical systems and inadequate fire protection equipment. Anti-corruption activists point out that past fires have often hit government offices where crucial financial records are stored.
In September 2005, a fire razed the headquarters of state electricity company PLN in South Jakarta, causing damages of about Rp4 billion. The blaze started at about 6am and destroyed much of the third floor. PLN officials said no data had been lost and were quick to deny a short circuit had caused the fire. Instead, the probable cause was said to be a carelessly discarded cigarette butt. Eight months later, PLN president director Eddie Widiono was arrested on suspicion of involvement in a $14 million corruption case. He was recently released because police failed to submit sufficient evidence of his involvement.
In March 2003, a fire damaged part of the 12-story Finance Ministry building, destroying important financial records of state agencies due to be audited. Like the Pertamina fire, it started in the early morning, at about 5am. Officials initially said the likely cause was a short circuit, but police suspected arson after finding traces of kerosene. No suspects were ever found.
In October 2000, a fire damaged the third floor of the State Development Finance Controller (BPKP) office, destroying documents related to the misuse of the central bank's Rp138.44 trillion (about $12 billion) liquidity support for ailing banks. Indonesian Corruption Watch said other documents destroyed were related to corruption cases allegedly involving former mines and energy minister Ginandjar Kartasasmita and cronies and relatives of Suharto. Arson was the suspected cause but police never found any suspects.
Arson was also prevalent in the organized mass riots that were unleashed in Jakarta in May 1998. The riots, which involved elements of the military, left over 1,100 people dead, 40 shopping centers burnt, 2,479 houses and shops destroyed, 1,026 houses destroyed and 383 offices destroyed. Military officers have never been brought to justice.
In December 1997, a fire gutted the top floors of one of Bank Indonesia's tower blocks, killing 15 people. As usual, authorities suggested a short circuit was the cause, but critics suspected foul play because the fire started in a data storage area and destroyed documents related to the closure of 16 insolvent banks.
In November 1997, a fire at the Finance Ministry damaged three floors. Officials said no important data had been lost, but anti-graft groups said records that could have been used to prove corruption were destroyed. The official cause of the blaze was a spark from a welder repairing a lift.
Under City Regulation No.3/1999, high-rise buildings in Jakarta are required to have well-maintained sprinklers, fire extinguishers, two fire escapes and easy road access for fire trucks. Further fire safety regulations have been outlined under Law No.28/2002 on Buildings but enforcement of the law is poor.
In 2005, the Jakarta Fire Department conducted a random inspection of fire protection systems at 212 multi-story buildings. At least 98 of the buildings, most of them government offices, were not in compliance with basic safety standards. An earlier survey by the Fire Department found that more than 40% percent of 510 high-rise government and commercial buildings had poorly maintained fire safety systems and equipment. Equally concerning is that most "entertainment centers" (bars, nightclubs, etc) do not meet basic safety standards.
The Jakarta Fire Department is poorly equipped and understaffed, conducting inspections once a year at most and often unable to force government offices to install all required fire safety equipment. Meanwhile, the number of fires in the city continues to increase every year.
While Pertamina's headquarters were ablaze, a fire started at about 5am Monday at one of the two office buildings of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Blok M, South Jakarta. The fire, which damaged much of the building's second floor, is believed to have been caused by a short circuit.
On Tuesday, a fire broke out on the second floor of the Menara Gracia office block, which is located next door to the heavily fortified Australian Embassy in Kuningan, South Jakarta. Menara Gracia was last seriously damaged when a suicide bomber attacked the embassy in September 2004. The fire started at about 5.30pm. It was not immediately clear whether there were any injuries.
To put matters in perspective, the Pertamina fire generated much more media interest and political attention than the news that eight people were killed and 11 others seriously injured when a bus rammed into a truck on the Jakarta-Cikampek toll road at dawn on Monday. The bus driver had apparently fallen asleep at the while. Poorly paid bus and truck drivers often work marathon hours, resulting in fatigue that can lead to accidents. Transportation Minister Hatta Radjasa said Monday's accident was due to negligence. "I really deplore this accident. I received a report on it this morning. These accidents are really caused by negligence," he was quoted as saying by state news agency Antara. He did not mention the possibility of introducing legislation to increase the wages of inter-city drivers and reduce their working hours.