Sunday, June 09, 2002

Sabah govt hopes to get illegal logging report next week

Utusan Malaysia

KOTA KINABALU June 8 - 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 today.

Chong said that 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.

When asked on the type of action to be taken against the offenders, Chong said that 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 innuendos."

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.

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