Illegal logging: Independent committee to scrutinize ‘no case’ decision

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg - file pic

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KUCHING: An independent committee will be formed to investigate the “no case” decision on a probe by the Forest Department over alleged illegal logging in Bintulu, said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg

“We will form a committee to investigate. The committee will consist of independent bodies including the Forest Department. We also have people from the Security Unit (Chief Minister’s Office) that will look into this,” he told reporters after the Integrity Seminar at Pullman Hotel here today.

Abang Johari was responding to findings from an investigating committee under the Forest Department, which concluded that there was no case against the companies felling trees in the area. Logs and machineries seized during the raid have also been released.

Sarawak Forestry director Sapuan Ahmad was reported as saying on Wednesday that he accepted the findings of his committee and sanctioned the release of the vehicles and logs.

In August, a joint raid carried out by a company and the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) seized about RM7 million worth of illegal logs and heavy machinery.

A police report was lodged at Tatau police station and subsequently over 3,500 logs and 14 units of heavy machinery were handed over to the state Forest Department for appropriate action.

It was reported that the logs were released to the village security and development committee (JKKK) in the area, while the machineries comprising two tractors, 10 excavators, a shovel truck and a dump truck were returned to the companies that felled the logs.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan, when met at the event, said he has directed for investigations to be carried out.

Awang Tengah who spearheaded the state Anti-Illegal Logging Committee admitted he was not aware of the existence of an investigating committee set up to probe the case.

“Definitely this so-called committee is not the Anti-Illegal Logging Committee administered by me. We are carrying out investigation as soon as possible,” he added.

When asked if a report has been made with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to probe any element of power abuse among officials involved, Awang Tengah said his committee consists of several agencies including the MACC.

State Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah has also shared his thoughts on the matter, suggesting MACC investigate whether there is any case of officials acting beyond their power.

“I smell something not right here and the public ought to know,” he said. — DayakDaily