Ex-staff of defunct Sabah timber firm may continue using its housing

KOTA KINABALU: All former employees of Sabah Forest Industries Sdn Bhd (SFI) will be allowed to stay in its living quarters for free until a consortium revives the fortunes of the once-successful pulp and paper company.

Assistant Minister to the Chief Minister Datuk Abidin Madingkir told the state assembly on Wednesday (Nov 30) that the former employees will be permitted to remain on the company’s premises while waiting for the consortium to take over the downstream operations.

Responding to a question by Datuk Dr Yusof Yaacob (BN-Sindumin) on SFI’s status, Abidin said the Sabah government had previously terminated its logging contract on grounds of public interest.

ALSO READ: Timber firm ordered to shut

To address issues arising from the termination, the state government will divide SFI concession areas into smaller concessions which will be managed under a new Sustainable Forest Management Licence Agreement (SFMLA), he added.

“Investor companies and a consortium among the SFMLA (companies) will be formed while the complete takeover of SFI assets will also be implemented by the state,” he said during the winding up for the Chief Minister’s Department.

“It is hoped that the consortium will be able to revive as well as restructure the development, management and operations of the pulp and paper mill, and the related downstream activities,” he added.

Abidin said the state government was looking forward to all issues and problems concerning SFI being resolved, and the south-western Sipitang district's forestry resources managed well, once the consortium is formed.

“We hope the mill will be reactivated and the welfare of former SFI workers can be (safeguarded) through re-employment,” he said.

The High Court issued a winding-up order on SFI in November last year after the company failed to pay its debts.

Judicial Commissioner Leonard Shim issued the order after the company failed to pay some RM2.7mil owed to its contractor, among others.

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On the carbon credit issue raised by Chong Chen Bin (Warisan-Tanjong Kapor), Abidin said there has been no carbon trading in Sabah as yet.

Any project pertaining to carbon trading planned for Sabah will have to go through the Sabah Climate Change Action Council chaired by State Secretary Datuk Seri Safar Untong, Abidin added.

He said the council was also responsible for setting the direction as well as discussing policies and action to address climate change and spur the growth of the economy and adoption of green technology.

“Besides that, the state through the Sabah Forestry Department and State Attorney General’s Office are also studying (improvements to) legal provisions concerning carbon credit trading under the state’s Forestry Enactment 1968," he added.

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On data collection of undocumented foreign workers and nationals in Sabah, Abidin said the state government has initiated a pilot test on the matter at several oil palm estates managed by state-owned Sawit Kinabalu Group.

He said the government will fully implement this data collection within the next six months, starting with the plantation sector.

He added that it involved all holders of the IMM13 document, census certificate and Burung-Burung card.

IMM13 (immigration pass) was issued by the Immigration Department to Filipino refugees who fled to Sabah in the 1970s; the census certificate was issued under the National Security Council's Federal Special Task Force in the 1990s; and the Burung-Burung card was issued by the Sabah Chief Minister’s Department in the 1980s.

“The government will start the collection in phases to ensure all processes will be conducted in a transparent, coordinated and effective way.

“The state government will collect biometric data including facial recognition,” Abidin said, adding that the data collection exercise will not grant citizenship status to the foreigners.

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