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Sarawak seeking heavier penalties for timber thieves

KUCHING: Sarawak authorities are seeking to amend laws to allow for heavier penalties, including caning, to punish those who fell timber illegally.

State Forestry Department director Sapuan Ahmad said the current penalty for felling timber without a permit to enter coupe (PEC) in a licensed area was RM200 per stump.

“This is a small sum compared to thousands of ringgit obtained from selling the timber.

“That’s why we want to amend the ordinance for heavier penalties, including caning,” he said, adding that the matter was being studied.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Sapuan said Sarawak’s forest authorities would strengthen their enforcement procedures and operations to curb illegal logging and timber smuggling activities.

This includes identifying loopholes in the system of verifying the legality of logs.

“The system is in place, but we have to plug the loopholes. For example, sometimes timber licencees don’t follow our operational stages under the PEC to cut timber in their licensed area.

“The PEC authorises them to fell timber in a certain block, but they may work in an unauthorised block within their area.

“This can affect our sustainable forestry management.

“So we will sit down and look at how to strengthen enforcement against such practices,” he said.

Sapuan said the department was also carrying out air surveillance, surprise checks in sawmills and roadblocks.

There was no more excuse for enforcement personnel to be lax in their duties after Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem’s warning on Monday that he would go after those who were slacking in doing their job, he said.

In addition, he said a standard operating procedure (SOP) had been drawn up to streamline the functions of the four forestry agencies in the state – the department, the Sarawak Forestry Corporation, the Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation and Harwood Timber Sdn Bhd.

“The SOP fine-tunes the operational scope of each agency, from timber licensing to harvesting, royalty assessment and monitoring the movement of logs.

“It will enable each agency to carry out their function more effectively and ensure that there is no overlapping of duty based on the concept of check-and-balance,” he said.

Statistics from the department showed that 42,958 cubic metres had been seized as of September, the biggest volume recorded in the past four years.

-thestar

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