Proceeds from log premium increase already being channeled to students

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg at the opening ceremony of SK Landeh, Padawan.

PADAWAN, 30 Oct: A whooping RM300 million collected through the state’s timber concessions has begun to benefit Sarawakian students in furthering their studies.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s firm decision in April to increase timber premiums was mainly for the Sarawak Education Fund, managed by Yayasan Sarawak to send students to local and premier universities.

“Because of my adamant decision to increase the chargeable premium for hill timber log from the initial RM0.80 to RM50 per cubic metre from July this year, we now have funds to help our poor but smart students to continue their studies,” Johari said at a ceremony at SK Landeh here today.

“I forced these timber tycoons to pay. Previously, they paid only RM0.80 per cubic metre and we could only collect RM9 million. Now, with the new timber policy, it is a more than 6,000 per cent increase.”

The state will use this substantial sum on education, meaning more local students will benefit from the programme.

He added that the state is now funding students to go to public and private Australian universities such as Swinburne University and Curtin University by offering loans and scholarships.

“I’ve recently sent 40 students at one go on full scholarships to study medicine in Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), and another 39 students to learn new courses, namely in cyber security, molecular engineering, molecular biology, programming and other digital related courses.”

He said previously, Yayasan Sarawak could only fund a dismal number of less than five students per year to further their studies.

The circular dated April 12, issued by Forestry Department titled ‘New Rate of Hill Timber Premium (Sarawak Foundation Fund)’ stated that ‘Chief Minister/Minister of Resource Planning and Environment in accordance with Section 46 (1) of the Forest Ordinance, 2015, has approved the increase in rate of Hill Timber Premium, that is premium chargeable on all species of logs harvested from hill forests and logs of hill species from agri-conversion areas’.

The timber industry in the state is dominated by six companies, known as the “Big 6” — KTS, Rimbunan Hijau, Samling, Shin Yang, Ta Ann and WTK.

Failing to accept the new premium rates on harvested logs, would put these companies at risk of losing their timber concessions. — DayakDaily