PRESS STATEMENT, 19 November 2014, KUALA LUMPUR – Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M) lauds the Chief Minister of Sarawak; Tan Sri Adenan Satem’s resolve to combat pervasive corruption in Sarawak, which is rampant particularly in the timber industry in the ‘Land of the Hornbills’.
TI-M is also heartened to note that Sarawak’s big six logging companies, including Rimbunan Hijau, Samling, KTS Group of Companies, Shin Yang, Ta Ann and WTK Holdings Berhad have signed the “Corporate Integrity Pledge”, as part of a move to promote transparency and good governance, during a luncheon at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly Complex.
CM Adenan had also previously expressed outrage, after illegal loggers infiltrated two national parks in Sarawak, one of which is the state’s largest totally protected peat swamp forest. He again issued a no-mercy directive yesterday against the illegal loggers.
CM Adenan also indicated that he wanted to gazette more forests in Sarawak into national parks for protection from deforestation. His aim is to have one-tenth of Sarawak declared as national parks. There are currently 800,000 hectares of national parks in 37 locations throughout Sarawak and by June next year, CM Adenan would like to see at least one million hectares gazetted as national parks.
In view of the tough stance of the Chief Minister and his vision of gazetting more areas into national parks, TI-M expects the Chief Minister’s State Forestry Department to duly and vigorously nail the culprits that engage in illegal loggings, particularly illegal loggings in the two existing national parks – the Maludam National Park and Bukit Tiban National Park. The State Attorney-General also needs to recommend proportionate and timely legal action against such perpetrators to bring them to book in the light of the Chief Minister’s demand to see concrete results in the fight against illegal loggers.
Some eight months after being sworn in as Chief Minister and as the state’s Natural Resources Minister, Tan Sri Adenan acknowledged that corruption in the timber industry was “very bad”, alluding that this is a reflection of what enforcement officers had not being doing. It however remains to be seen, if the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) would be arresting the “sharks” of the illegal loggers or merely remain content with legal recourse only against the “anchovies” of the illegal trade.
Dato’ Akhbar Satar, President of TI-M, lauds CM Adenan’s assurance on putting an end to the issuance of new timber licences, even minor ones; as timely and pivotal, given the “gravity of the de-forestation in the state”. TI-M will give full support if the Chief Minister “walks the talk” in tackling the scourge of illegal logging and takes ownership of the issue of fighting corruption and the abuse of power.
For all Malaysians who have been talking about fighting corruption, here is the time for them to also do their part by reporting any illegal logging to the authorities or using our Forest Watch. The Forest Watch Project was launched by TI-M’s Forest Governance Integrity Programme to involve the public to become eyes and ears of the forest by monitoring illegal logging activities using Google Earth Geospatial Technology (satellite imagery, aerial photography and GIS 3D globe) to assess forest cover and report irregularities through the site. A Monitoring and Advisory Team of Experts will be reviewing the reports and respond accordingly. (http://www.timalaysia-forestwatch.org.my/). This app can be downloaded via smartphones.
Apart from illegal logging, TI-M notes the related issue of the plight of the Penan tribe women and children, purportedly raped and abused by the timber loggers. There also needs to be resolution on these sexual abuses that had surfaced many years earlier and have stayed in the minds of many as, who wonder what will happen to the plight of this minority group, the original and rightful owners of the Baram and Limbang basins.
The Penan tribe which number about 16,000 of which about 200 who still live a nomadic lifestyle, came to national and international attention, when they resisted logging operations in their home territories of the Baram, Limbang, Tutoh and Lawas regions of Sarawak. The Penan’s struggle began back in the 1960s when the Malaysian government opened up large tracts of Sarawak’s interior to commercial logging. One needs to see a holistic resolution of the illegal logging issue and the adverse socio-economic effects on this native tribe and TI-M looks to the Sarawak State Government to finally show its commitment to right the wrongs of the past.
Transparency International-Malaysia is an independent, non-governmental and non-partisan organisation committed to the fight against corruption.