Sahabat Alam Malaysia’s (SAM) field staff has stumbled upon a huge pile of seized logs at the logpond of Sungai Pelutan in Middle Baram, Sarawak recently.
To our dismay, the seized logs were of the Tapang species (Koompassia excelsa). Tapang is a protected plant species under the Second Schedule of the Sarawak Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998 because it is rare and because it is an important nesting tree for honey bees.
Therefore, felling Tapang trees is prohibited. The penalty is a maximum one year imprisonment or a fine of RM10,000.
We applaud the Forestry Department’s quick action in seizing these logs and assume that the due legal process is underway. However, we call upon the agency to leave no stone unturned in its investigation as we fear that the amount seized could be just the tip of the iceberg.
As conviction against violation of logging rules is rare in Sarawak, which is infamous for its degraded forests due to unsustainable logging practices, SAM would like to urge the Attorney General to direct the Prosecuting Officer to push for the stiffest penalty against the culprit(s) before the court of law.
On Sept 24, Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem announced that the state would arm 50 senior enforcement officers to fight illegal logging as he ‘had enough of illegal logging devastating the state’s forests and its diverse wildlife’. He expects to see results in the next six months and promises to do something more drastic if the situation does not improve.
We, therefore, earnestly urge Tan Sri Adenan to show his leadership in tackling the scourge of illegal logging that has been plaguing Sarawak for decades and that he himself has outrightly condemned, starting with this particular case.
We also would like to encourage the Sarawak Forestry Department to publicise the actions that have been taken thus far on this case. If found guilty, the public must know whether the parties involved have indeed been awarded the licence to log the area concerned, or if they also happen to be holding permits in other areas. If this is the case, we call upon Tan Sri Adenan to revoke all their logging licences in order to set an example against other potential offenders that he meant business and the law is not to be trivialized.
S M Mohamed Idris