‘Eye in the sky’ could have saved Sarawak RM180mil — Wan Junaidi

Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar

By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, Sept 18: The RM35 million surveillance aircraft to curb illegal logging could have started operation last year and save the state some RM180 million in losses due to illegal logging and poaching.

Santubong MP Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the state forestry could have embarked on the operations earlier if it wasn’t for a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) probe from a report lodged by a Pakatan Harapan lawmaker.

According to the former Minister of Natural Resources and Environment,  the request for the plane was made by the state government to Putrajaya in 2015 and was approved in principle in 2016, with the ceiling price of RM35 million.

This was followed by an international proposal, which attracted bids from three companies.

“After due consideration and evaluation of the technologies offered and specifications of the aircraft, the government agreed to buy the Diamond aircraft. I brought the request again to the Cabinet with price and specifications agreed for approval of purchase.

“With the Cabinet approval, the ministry could instruct the aircraft company to commence fitting for delivery of the aircraft and based on the schedule, they say they could deliver in 2018,” Wan Junaidi said in a statement.

File photo of the four-seater model DA42M-NG Diamond special mission aircraft. Picture courtesy of Diamond Aircraft Industries, Austria.

When the purchase was disputed by a state assemblyman with reports lodged with the MACC, the whole aircraft assembly and fitting process was held up pending investigation, he continued.

“Now, almost two years after the Cabinet approval then, its purchase and delivery have been announced. I welcome this news, as it could save Sarawak mapping process cost and time.

“Based on the study made by the Sarawak Forest Department, the plane with its enormous surveillance capability to curb anti-logging, encroachment and poaching could save Sarawak RM180 million annually,” he said.

The aircraft was to be equipped with multi-purposes monitoring and data collecting systems particularly for mapping, data collection, classification of biodiversity and resources of the forest, he added.

Wan Junaidi was commenting on Minister of Water, Land and Natural Resources Dr Xavier Jayakumar, who revealed yesterday that the aircraft is expected to arrive in Sarawak by the end of the year.

The aircraft will be based in Sarawak and uses a Turnkey Hyperspectral Observation System which will assist in efforts to protect the country’s forests and wildlife.

“It’s a hyperspectral plane, basically to map the whole of Sarawak in terms of forests, wildlife, land use and also we can see what we have underground.

“With this, we can then have the full Big Data information on Sarawak which can then be used for the betterment of the state,” Dr Xavier told reporters after paying a courtesy call on Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg. — DayakDaily