MIRI: Dozens of reports have been lodged with various enforcement agencies alleging corrupt practices in the logging industry in northern Sarawak but little seems to have been done by the authorities, say complainants.
Human rights groups from the indigenous rural communities in the region praised Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem yesterday for coming down hard on corrupt practices in the timber and logging industries but they want to know why the state Forestry Department, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and police have not acted on the many reports lodged by the natives over the years.
Peter Kallang, the Orang Ulu National Association chairman for Miri Division, toldThe Star yesterday that he had lodged at least five reports each to the MACC and police in Miri against illegal logging over the past two to three years.
“Apart from MACC and the police, I have also sent official letters to the Forestry Department to inform them of illegal logging in Baram, especially in the forests at the site in Long Kesseh where the proposed Baram Dam is to be constructed.
“I have also accompanied leaders from several other human rights and environmental rights associations when they lodged their own reports with MACC and the police against illegal logging and trespassing of native land where the rural people have native customary rights (NCR).
“All in, there are dozens of reports throughout northern Sarawak against illegal logging and land grabs lodged by human rights groups, environmental groups and individual villagers but until today, none of these reports have seen conclusive investigations by the police, MACC or Forestry Department,” he said.
Kallang was responding to Adenan lashing out at the level of corruption in the state and of timber titans in the state signing a corporate integrity pledge drafted by the MACC and Sarawak Forestry Department which is aimed at strengthening public and private sector commitment towards integrity and addressing corruption.
Adenan, who was addressing a gathering at the State Legislative Assembly building, told the stunned audience that included senior forestry enforcement officials that he would go after them too if they did their job “with eyes but are blind, with ears but are deaf and with mouths but are dumb”.
“While we applaud Tan Sri Adenan for his tough stance against corrupt practices, the fact remains that hanky-panky has been going on for years and nothing much has been done about it,” said Kallang.
“In my case, the police and MACC and forestry people have never interviewed me for further information even after the many reports I lodged with them.”
Kallang, who is also chairman of the environmental group Save Sarawak Rivers, said illegal logging was blatant not just in northern Sarawak but also in other parts of the state.
He said corruption persisted in the logging industry in Sarawak because of weak enforcement on the ground.
Unless the enforcement agencies bucked up, nothing would change, he added.
Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia coordinator for Sarawak Raymond Abin said they too had lodged reports to the MACC and police concerning illegal logging in central and northern Sarawak.
“However, until now, we have no feedback on the status of the investigations,” he said.
In an immediate response, Miri MACC chief Wan Mohd Faizul confirmed that the commission had received reports alleging corruption in the logging industry from the rural communities, non-governmental organisations and local human rights organisations.
“We investigated the reports as they came in.
“Some we referred to the MACC headquarters in Kuching for further directives,” said Wan Mohd, but he declined to give further information on the cases.
“Others that we investigated involved native customary rights – these are disputes between the natives and logging companies where the natives claim they have NCR but the companies say they have valid licences to log.
“In these cases, we found no elements of corruption.”