KUCHING, Dec 10, 2014:
Sarawak is expected to introduce a new legislation in the next state assembly sitting to impose heavier penalty on timber theft and smuggling, including imprisonment.
Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem said under the current legislation, the penalty only allowed for a RM200 compound for every tonne of timber seized and no imprisonment.
Adenan said he was very serious in his efforts to clean the state of illegal logging and smuggling of timber.
“About three weeks ago, I warned against illegal logging and smuggling of timber and I told those engaged in these activities not to mess with me,” he told a press conference after officiating the Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) Integrity Day here today.
So far, he said, the Forestry Department and the police had conducted 177 raids throughout the state resulting in 65,408 cubic metres of timber seized, valued at over RM32.7 million
He said the enforcement authorities would be on a 24-hour alert to act on any information, including conducting raids, road blocks and patrolling by marine police along rivers to nab those involved in timber theft and smuggling.
Adenan, however, declined to comment on why only now that action was being taken although it was publicly known that illegal logging and smuggling of timber had been going on for a long time in Sarawak.
Earlier, Adenan said the state government would not hesitate to cancel the operating licences of those who had breached the terms and conditions stated in their permits.
“We must clean up because we have a very bad reputation, internationally, because of these smuggling (of timber).”
He said there must also be political will to clean up the mess, including taking action against enforcement officers found to be abetting illegal loggers and smugglers.
He would also talk with some non-governmental organisations to seek their advice on how best they could assist the government in preserving the state’s forests, he said.