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CORRUPT OFFICIALS ‘SELLING’ PAHANG FORESTS, AND MAYBE IN OTHER STATES,TOO : Probe to reveal if officers had links to illegal logging

22 May, 2007

Illegal Logging in Pahang

Time and again we hear of corruption being practiced rather rampantly in this country and this time it is with the Forestry Department of Pahang as reported by NST on 21st May 2007. See link below:-

http://www.nst.com.my/Current_News/NST/Monday/Frontpage/20070521075301/Article/index_html

It seems like the disease is not slowly dying out but more to the contrary. In the past we see the doers being caught and punished but yet it does not scare any potential doer from committing it. It must be a very lucrative business if met with success especially when the doer manages to evade the law.

Why is this happening so rampantly in our country which is trying to show the world that she trying her level best to eradicate corruption? Perhaps the punishment is not severe enough to prevent or deter potential doers from committing bribery.

The latest cases brought to light are that of the Forestry Department of Pahang in which 16 or so cases are undergoing probe by the ACA. The investigation was revealed by Timber Malaysia, a bulletin published by the Malaysian Timber Council.

According to the Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid said the number of bribes involving forestry department personnel nationwide was “very low”.

I very much disagree with the minister’s view which in a way goes to show that the corrupt practices in the Forestry Department is sort of allowable and there is nothing serious about it. To me even if the indication is “very very low” this is serious enough to warrant severe punishment and the government must treat the issue as something that cannot be allowed to continue at all.

The state forestry director Che Hashim Hassan said this was worrying as it had been many years since officers in his department had been involved in such cases.

To this I agree with the state forestry director’s remark. This should be the concerned of any highly responsible government official as opposed to the way the minister had remarked on the matter.

There should be a severe and uncompromising warning by top ministers and government officials to any type of bribery practice so as to clearly indicate the seriousness of the offence. To this case the bulletin also quoted Peninsular Malaysia Forestry Department director-general Datuk Azhar Muda as saying that officers implicated in illegal logging would be sacked.

“It is unforgivable for our officers to collaborate with illegal loggers. They will not be given a second chance”. He further said “Companies involved in illegal logging will be taken to court instead of being fined.”

This is a very strong remark coming from top official of the forestry department that should serve as serious warning and showing no compromise. The minister, ministering the affected department, should indicate strong support for such remarks to show that the government is also in favour of such actions to be taken for the offenders.

All quarters concerned should answer to the call of the PM made during the National Convention on Bio-diversity in January 2005 to limit the number of new logging concessions. This call or appeal by the PM is not to be taken lightly as it would cause so much of damage to the environment should logging be allowed to be done indiscriminately more so with the practice of bribery by the forestry officials.

Those who have allowed logging to be carried out indiscriminately dan discreetly is actually going against nature’s balance as well as having total and blatant disregard for the PM’s directive.

As a good preventive measure to illegal and indiscriminate logging the public can now utilize the newly launched programme where the public can alert the department about illegal logging via SMS. They can send an SMS to 32232 or call toll-free number 1800 88 5776 to make a report.

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