Adenan’s hard-hitting speech at the UN International Day of Forests is hard to ignor

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  • Wednesday, 25 Mar 2015

TAN Sri Adenan Satem has given few press interviews of late.

On the occasion of his first anniversary as Chief Minister, he gave just one interview and two others to television stations.

My guess is the Chief Minister does not want to have his quotes rewritten and edited. If he was going to be in the media at all, he wanted to be heard and seen as directly as possible, hence, TV.

I was not going to feature Adenan this week – he’s reached media saturation point – but he gave such a good speech last Saturday at the state-level United Nations’ International Day of Forests.

To set the scene, Adenan was speaking at the ballroom of the new Sarawak Legislative Assembly Complex in Kuching. In the room, there were ministers and the state’s “big six” timber tycoons, which included people on Forbes Malaysia’s 50 richest list.

Midway through the speech, Adenan unexpectedly launched into immigration woes, which made front pages the next day.

Here is his speech from the start, edited only for brevity.

“At first, they thought I do not mean business. Now they know. At first, they thought I was just an idle threat. Now they know. Almost everyday, we carry out raids. It is like opening a can of worms. We will continue to carry out raids until the last log is accounted for.

“There will be prosecutions after this. We are working out the cases against illegal loggers and also against forest officers. The MACC is taking a particular interest in this.

“Can you imagine, somebody built a slipway in a national park and the enforcers didn’t know about it? Can you just imagine that?

“When raids are carried out, the timber is there, the machinery is there, the chainsaw is there, but there is nobody there!

“There are stool pigeons in the Forestry Department or in the Sarawak Forestry Corporation, who must have told the illegal loggers.

“This thing must stop, once and for all, they are robbing Sarawak. I am glad the big six are here. We have invited them to join our Committee on Illegal Logging, (Monitoring Enforcement and Preventative System).

“I hope they will accept the invitation to join our effort to stop illegal felling. The big six, are you here? Would you like to join the committee?

“Issue a circular to your subcontractors and camp managers to say that if anyone of them is involved in illegal felling, they will be sacked. Make it a written instruction. We need your cooperation, we cannot do this alone.

“They say, I don’t mean business on illegal immigrants in Sarawak. You know what is happening in Miri now: You have got Filipinos, 500 to 700 of them, living in and around Miri, and they (enforcers) don’t know about it?

“We warned the Immigration Department one year ago but nothing was done. A problem that was small has become a big problem. Raids will continue, more will be arrested.

“As far as Sarawak is concerned, don’t mess with me.

“We don’t want Sarawak to be like Sabah. You know the big problem in Sabah? Because they just let it go like that. They should have done it years ago, now the problem is huge. You want Sarawak to be like that?

“This is (a warning) to all the big companies, not just the timber companies, that have allowed labour to come across our border with their encouragement. I’m sorry but we have to take firm stand now otherwise we have to take a desperate stand later on.

“Of course there are women and children involved. Don’t think I enjoy doing this sort of thing. I have given instructions that they must be treated humanely. Give them food, drinks, then deport them. Dia pun manusia juga (they, too, are human beings) but we must be firm.

“Weak enforcement, basically, that has been the problem. The best deterrent is not so much the penalty, it is the certainty of being caught.

“People do things because they are certain never to be caught. But if they are certain to be caught, that is the deterrent.

“Back to timber. Our policy is very simple. One day we wish to be exporting timber and products from planted forests only. Leave the natural forest alone.

“We cannot do that now because there is not enough volume from planted forests. We cannot do that yet to be realistic; our industry will collapse.

“Sarawak cannot change the whole world but we must do our little bit as best we can. We will preserve our tropical forests of millions of years. Trees grow to hundreds of years old and all it takes is a few minutes to cut them down.”

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