Thursday, June 27, 2002

No illegal logging in Benta Wawasan concession, says Chong Kah Kiat

Utusan Malaysia

KOTA KINABALU June 26 - Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Chong Kah Kiat said today that there are no illegal logging activities in the Benta Wawasan Sdn Bhd timber concession area in Luasong, Tawau.

Speaking to reporters after chairing the state cabinet meeting here, Chong said that an offence had not been committed in the area, where the concession holders were allowed to log and the government was not deprived of royalty as alleged.

He was asked to comment on the report submitted to him by the Forestry Department and State Attorney-General's Office on alleged illegal logging activities in the concession area.

It was previously reported that the Special Unit in the State Security Division has intercepted more than 1,000 logs in the concession area over alleged contravention of the Sabah Forestry Enactment.

One of the operators in the concession area, reportedly aligned to a prominent Sabah politician, allegedly attempted to stop the authority from taking action as well as trying to evade payment of timber royalty that may affect the state's revenue.

Chong has also stated earlier that the name of the prominent Sabah politician allegedly linked to the logging contractors as reported, was not mentioned in the report.

At the same event, Chong also said that he had received letters from Singapore International Foundation (SIF) executive director Dr Tan Chi Chiu and Wildlife Reserves Singapore chief executive officer Bernard Harrison expressing regret over what were uttered by Tan Kit Sun, conservation curator of the Singapore Zoological Gardens, on June 17, this year.

Tan, who headed a SIF-supported youth expedition team was in Sabah to work together with SOS Rhino Sabah and the Sabah Wildlife and Forestry Department to conduct a survey on the endangered Sumatran Rhino.

He has told reporters that the team discovered traces of logging trails, a bulldozer and some round logs that were felled earlier in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve which suggested that illegal logging activities and poaching could have taken place in the area.

Dr Tan said: "Our view is that he (Tan) should not have made those statements in the press. It was inappropriate, insensitive, unhelpful and has caused embarrassment to the partner organisations as well as the Government of Sabah."

Dr Tan said that Tan's statements were made entirely in his personal capacity and the conservation curator does not represent the views of the SIF.

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