MIRI: Sarawak will turn up the heat in combating illegal logging by introducing heavier fines in the upcoming Forest Ordinance amendment during the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting in April.
Speaking to the press after a dialogue with forestry officers, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem said the amendment will increase and enhance the penalties, including the amount of compound and add in the phrase presumption, so that it is mandatory for those caught in possession of stolen logs to explain the source.
Since last year, when the move to clamp down the illegal logging activity was initiated, the government had achieved some degree of success which saw millions of ringgit worth of timber being confiscated.
The seized timber means we have saved millions of ringgit from being stolen from our jungle. Though the logs will be auctioned off to anybody who wants to buy, at the same time, I also want to work out a system whereby the offenders cannot buy back the confiscated logs, he said.
Adenan warned Forest Department and Sarawak Forestry Corporation staff who cooperated with illegal syndicates that they would face disciplinary action, if found to do so.
And in some cases these staff would be referred to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for further action, he said.
He said the fight against illegal logging had achieved some degree of success but more needed to be done.
Meanwhile, statistics disclosed that as of Feb 27 this year, the Forestry Department had resolved 51 cases, with 15,655 logs worth RM5.9 million seized.
The department had also identified 29 suspects and seized eight trucks, three barges, three backhoes and a tractor during the operations.
At the same time, Adenan called on respective port authorities and the Marine Department to ensure that logs were not shipped out illegally by foreign ships.
Sources revealed that they (foreign ships) are the ones bringing out the logs straight out of Sarawak to their own countries. I am certainly glad and thankful that members of the public had come forward to cooperate with the government, providing more information on suspected activities.
The war against illegal logging will continue. Whether or not we can catch the mastermind behind these activities, we will certainly get him when we get him, he said before concluding the press conference.
State secretary Datuk Amar Mohamad Morshidi Abdul Ghani, Forestry Department director Sapuan Ahmad, Miri Resident Antonio Kahti Galis and mayor Lawrence Lai also attended the press conference.