Kota Kinabalu: The Special Unit in the State Security Division has intercepted more than 1,000 logs inside the Benta Wawasan timber concession area in Luasong, Tawau, on suspicion of contravening the Sabah Forestry Enactment.
It was very reliably learnt that one of the contractors involved is aligned to a "top Sabah politician" and attempts have been made to stop the authority concerned from taking action against them.
Benta Wawasan is one of Yayasan Sabah's investment arms involved in logging activities within an area of more than 200,000 hectares earmarked for a joint venture pulp paper project between the State Government and a China-based company.
Under specific arrangements, Benta Wawasan has appointed several timber companies to carry out tree felling activities in the proposed area, which later raised a controversy due to the absence of a compulsory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
It was understood that a team from the Special Unit swung into action during last week's long holiday break following a tip-off that three timber companies assigned to log the area had been suspected of indulging in illegal activities.
Sources claimed that some 300 logs were said to have been felled below the permitted girth measurement and, at the same time, the company concerned had even attempted to evade payment of timber royalty that would have affected State revenue.
It was also learnt that all the seized logs were being strictly guarded by personnel from the Special Unit pending investigations.
The Special Unit has been set up under the preview of Chief Minister's Department to help the Forestry Department in tackling the rampant illegal logging activities described by Chief Minister Datuk Chong Kah Kiat as among "the three sins that need to be eliminated."
Chong recently announced the acquisition of the services of a former senior police officer to help strengthen the Special Units of the State Security Division.
DAILY EXPRESS NEWS 8th June 2002
A full report on Benta illegal logging awaited
Kota Kinabalu: The Sabah Government expects a full report from the Forestry Department on the seizure of more than 1,000 logs inside the Benta Wawasan timber concession area in Luasong, Tawau.
The logs were seized by the Special Unit in the State Security Division set up under the purview of the Chief Minister on suspicion of contravening the Sabah Forestry Enactment.
"I'm waiting for the report. I hope to get the report by next week," Chief Minister Datuk Chong Kah Kiat told reporters after opening the eighth global Nanyang University Alumni reunion here Saturday.
Chong said he wants to have the report as soon as possible because the issue had been played up publicly.
A local newspaper reported that a team of the Special Unit got into action after receiving a tip-off during last week's long holiday that three timber companies assigned to log the area were suspected to be involved in illegal logging activities, like cutting down trees below the permitted girth of measurement.
Benta Wawasan is one of the companies of Sabah Foundation's investment arm, involved in logging activities within a more than 200,000-ha concession area earmarked for a joint-venture pulp and paper project between the State Government and a China-based company.
The joint-venture, however, has yet to materialise and Chong had said that it might be scrapped if the Chinese company still refuses to accept Sabah's proposition in the RM4.56bil project.
When asked on the type of action to be taken against the offenders, Chong said it would be all sorts of action including cancelling the logging permit, imposing compounds as well prosecution.
The news report also said that one of the contractors involved was aligned to a prominent Sabahan politician and attempts have been made to stop the authority concerned from taking action against them.
However, Chong said: "I want names...I don't want speculation, I don't want innuendoes."
Asked whether there will be any compromise in respect of the offenders, Chong said: "I have been doing this for the last 12 months...I've been hitting everybody."
Chong previously vowed to clean "three sins" – illegal logging, illegal immigrants and fish bombings – in Sabah. – Bernama