KUCHING: Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem has had enough of illegal logging devastating the state’s forests, famous for its diverse wildlife.
From next month, 50 of the most senior enforcement officers in the state’s Forestry Department are expected to be issued with firearms.
“We will be issuing arms to Forestry (Department) officers. This is the first time that we are doing it.
“I’ve seen it from the air. I’ve received reports on timber smuggling, illegal felling of trees and non-payment of royalties.
“Some of these have been done in broad daylight. We want to put a stop to all that,” Adenan told reporters after opening the “Integrity Week for Sarawak’s Enforcers” here yesterday.
Asked about the reason enforcement officers will need to be given firearms, Adenan said: “So that enforcers will be more confident.
“Sometimes if they go empty-handed, the other side might be armed, you see.”
Other measures to step up enforcement would be to supply more four-wheel drive vehicles and equipment to the officers, he added.
“We have to make our enforcement more efficient. I expect to see results in the next six months.
“If figures are still not improved, then we will need to do something more drastic,” said Adenan.
Admitting that enforcement was still lacking, he cited the existence of illegal sawmills, theft in the oil palm sector, encroachment of foreign vessels into Malaysian borders and “night clubs operating after permitted hours”.
“There is too much of these activities going on,” Adenan said.
With the arming of Sarawak’s forestry officers, it will join Sabah as the other state which has issued guns to its enforcement team against poachers and illegal loggers.
On the Integrity Week, which was attended by 500 personnel from the Forestry Department, Adenan said more would be held soon, calling it the “first step of his administration to combat corruption”.
State department director Sapuan Ahmad said the first officers to be armed with guns should be on patrol in a month’s time.
“Standard operating procedures will be drawn from the police and joint training will begin immediately,” he said.
“This proposal came from our department. Our men have been threatened before by gangsters.
“There have been reports of rural folk shooting (in self-defence) at loggers. When there are situations like these and my men are not equipped, how can they not feel scared?”