KUCHING: Timber and oil palm industry lobby groups in Sarawak are unhappy that hundreds of bank accounts have been frozen under a probe on corruption and illegal logging.
In separate statements, the Sarawak Timber Association (STA) and Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (Soppoa) described the freezing of accounts under Ops Gergaji as extreme and disruptive.
STA chairman Pemanca Datuk Wong Kie Yik said that MACC's freezing of 519 bank account worth RM700mil was "too harsh".
He said Ops Gergaji, which began last Tuesday, had crippled daily operations of member companies, some of which not directly involved in the timber trade.
"This has put affected companies in dire situations of not being able to pay their contractors, sub-contractors, suppliers and their employees when the Gawai Dayak festival is just around the corner," Wong said in a statement.
He added that those companies would break the law by not meeting statutory requirements of paying Employees Provident Fund, Social Security and the Goods and Services Tax.
Wong reiterated the industry's support for anti illegal logging efforts but said the methods deployed had been unreasonable and without compassion.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission's (MACC) has frozen more than 500 accounts involving nearly RM700mil and seized 1,785 logs worth RM1mil.
Ops Gergaji involved 400 officers and covered Miri, Kuching, Sibu, Bintulu, Bakun and Kapit. Fourteen people, who are directors and managers of sawmill and log ponds, had been called up to assist in investigations.
In the Soppoa statement, issued late Friday, it said members welcomed the move to fight illegal logging but "strongly oppose the freezing of bank accounts of other businesses not related to such activities".
It said that accounts of plantation companies, educational institutions, hospitality businesses and many other businesses across Sarawak had been frozen.
"It is grossly unfair to the business community. It appears some of the companies’ bank accounts are frozen by reason that they have common directorship. Such a move has caused great disruptions and direct adverse impact on the chain of business partners," it said.
Soppoa also cited difficulties in paying contractors and employees, and similarly, highlighted that Gawai Dayak is just around the corner. It said many oil palm small estate owners were from the indigenous group.
"Soppoa states that the oil palm supply chain has always been one of the most transparent and tightly regulated business in Malaysia and has enjoy good reputation internationally," it said.