PRS senator: Soon Koh’s challenge to Masing a political stunt

Rita Insol

By Nur Ashikin Louis

KUCHING, Sept 3:  Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) Senator Rita Insol describes Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) president Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh’s challenge to PRS president Tan Sri James Jemut Masing to disclose the identity of the timber companies given logging rights over the Baleh dam area as an antiquated publicity stunt.

Rita said that the rakyat was not enamoured with such stunt, rather the rakyat wanted to know what causes the logjam, that the culprits are held accountable and appropriate measures put in place to prevent another logjam from happening again.

Soon Koh was reported to have dismissed the call by Masing who is also Deputy Chief Minister to not renew the licences of timber companies responsible for the recent logjam at the Baleh river and challenged Masing to name the companies given logging rights over the Baleh hydroelectric power (HEP) dam area.

Soon Koh was further reported to have said that many of the timber companies had nothing to do with the approved salvage logging in the area to be impounded for the Baleh dam and that responsible timber companies have been complying with the standard operating procedures issued by the Forestry Department.

Rita said that removal of standing timber prior to flooding and salvaging of timber in submerged reservoirs is not uncommon, it is carried out in many parts of the world.

“However harvesting of standing timber prior to flooding is not a simple operation and appropriate measures have to be taken to prevent calamitous events from occurring,” said Rita in a press statement today.

She further pointed out that even if many of the timber companies had nothing to do with the removal of timber, it does not exonerate the timber companies that carried out the harvesting if the investigation revealed that those companies have failed to put in place appropriate measures either prescribed in their licences or which they as responsible timber operators should take having regard to factors such as terrain, weather, past incidents such as the 2010 logjam and impact of their operation on the physical environment.

The cavalier dismissal by Soon Koh of Masing’s suggestion for non-renewal of licences of timber operators found to have caused the logjam showed that Soon Koh does not subscribe to the virtue of accountability.

“As the assemblyman for Baleh, Tan Sri James Masing demonstrated his concern by flying to the headwaters of the Sungai Mengiong to investigate the logjam.

“Based on what he saw, he said the logjam was not caused by shifting cultivation nor the construction works at the site of the HEP dam (as alleged by some quarters), rather it was caused by heavy logging at the Sungai Mengiong headwaters, the area that will be impounded for the Baleh dam.

“Tan Sri James Masing drew his conclusion based on what he saw and information given to him. Hence Soon Koh’s allegation that such conclusion is irrational is not the thought of a rational mind,” said Rita. — DayakDaily