Sarawak Assistant Minister for Environment Len Taliff Salleh says they are looking at ways to mitigate the situation.
KUCHING: Mounting embarrassment over how a license for quarrying works in historic Mount Serumbu was issued to a company without any EIA report has left officials flustered and helpless.
The company, it was recently disclosed, belonged to Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s sister Raziah, her husband Robert Genied and another minority shareholder Leo Chai who is a former director of Forestry.
At the State Legislative Assembly yesterday, Assistant Minister of Environment Len Taliff Salleh said they were looking at ways to “mitigate” the problem.
“We are looking at all the possibilities to mitigate the problem. We are looking into all the issues from both sides.
“The license was issued in 1997 but (the company) has not done much since then. There was no EIA report approved for this purpose (quarrying).
“So if they want to operate now, they have to comply with all the terms and conditions,” Len, who is Belawei assemblyman, told reporters here.
But the view among Taib watchers’ here is that Len’s statement means they are powerless and can’t wiggle out of the contract because “she’s (Raziah) very powerful”.
On Monday, state Natural Resource and Environment Board (NREB) controller Peter Sawal in an immediate reaction to allegations, washed his hands off responsibility when he said the company Serambu Quarry Sdn Bhd had “never” submitted a Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report although they had seen “us to discuss the terms of reference to conduct EIA studies”.
When asked how the company secured the licence, Sawal said licensing did not come under NRED’s purview.
His statement followed speculations that the board had received but ‘rejected’ the company’s EIA report and had turned a blind eye because of the company’s ‘connections’.
Raziah incidentally is also a director in Quality Concrete Sdn Bhd. The company was forced to give up an allegedly illegally acquired logging permit to log in Sebangan.
According to reports Raziah’s string of companies have allegedly received large tracts of land and contracts as a result of her family ties.
Her Serambu Quarry company has apparently been quarrying valuable granite from the mountains in Bau for some time now.
Last Sunday frustrated residents from 17 villagers took matters into their own hands when they held a peaceful protest demanding that the Land and Survey Department revoke the quarrying license from the company.
The protest followed five letters sent to Land & Survey Department and a letter to Taib all of which the protesters said went unanswered.
The protest to save Mount Serumbu is the second such action by Sarawakians concerned about their ancestral land.
Earlier this month 1,000 protesters from the Bibukar community in Serian protested illegal logging on Mount Sadong.
The protests led several Dayak Barisan Nasional state and federal ministers to call for affirmative action from the state government to protecting the environment, ancestral and historic sites.
Serian and Bau, considered to be semi ‘urban’ seats, comprise mixed communities.
In the last state polls opposition DAP which won an unprecedented 15 constituencies, mainly Chinese seats. Bolstered by views of political analysts that the mixed constituencies showed signs of favoured the opposition, the party immediately declared that its next target would be the mixed and interior seats.
Costly compensations Meanwhile Len’s comment on seeking ways to mitigate the situation with Serambu Quarry Sdn Bhd echoes rising concerns in the official circles of the amount of payouts done on contractual compensations following protests by natives against state-goverment driven developments.
On Monday state Infrastructive Development and Communication Minister Michael Manyin told the DUN that RM4 million was spent compensating contractors because on blockades by natives on the Long Sukang-Lawas Road project in Ba Kelalan.
The compensation came out the RM32 million allocated for the road project.
The state has also expressed concerns over costly delays in its dam projects which are also contentious developments and protested by natives.