KUCHING: Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem (pic) has unveiled a string of measures that he termed “follow-up action” to his offensive against illegal logging.
During his winding-up speech at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly yesterday, he warned the culprits involved that they would be up against stronger enforcement with a beef-up in intelligence gathering, equipment and weapons capabilities, among others.
He said the state government had approved RM5.07mil to acquire 29 Land Cruisers, four caravans, 50 pieces of firearms, uniforms and helicopter rental for aerial surveillance to boost enforcement.
He also said the state Forestry Department had intensified its actions against illegal logging and timber smuggling activities, including gathering intelligence, conducting surprise checks at log ponds and timber mills and helicopter surveillance.
The department also held a workshop on combating illegal logging and smuggling last month, during which various enforcement agencies assessed the log verification system currently being used in the state.
“We will try all this first to see whether it will work. If it is not very effective, we will amend the Forest Ordinance to increase the penalties, including imprisonment.
“But the main thing is not so much the penalty but the certainty of being caught. That is where enforcement comes in,” he said.
Adenan reiterated that he was not talking idly but meant what he said about putting a stop to illegal logging.
“That’s why I said don’t mess with me (on Monday). There will be follow-up action,” he said.
Adenan also invited NGOs such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to talk with him on how to combat the problem.
“We are prepared to collaborate with sincere NGOs who are concerned about our forests,” he said.
Forestry Department director Sapuan Ahmad announced in a press conference after the speech that 22,306 illegal logs worth RM5.5mil had been seized in Bintulu and Miri in the last two weeks.
He said 17,064 logs were seized from eight locations in Bintulu and 5,242 logs from five locations in Miri for various offences, including felling without licence, felling outside licensed areas and non-payment of royalty.
Two excavators were also seized for encroaching into the Similajau National Park during the raids under the department’s Ops Bintulu Miri.
“No arrests were made as the loggers ran away when our men came,” he said, adding that the department would launch more operations against illegal logging.
Sapuan also said a first batch of 50 enforcement officers would be armed starting January.
“They are being screened first to make sure they are mentally fit. In December, they will be trained and by January they will be carrying guns,” he said, adding that the department had 400 enforcement officers.