World Rainforest Movement

Sarawak: in the morass of corruption

According to a report from Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik, the Malaysian Minister of Industry, illegal logging offenses are declining as a consequence of the 1993 revision of the forestry law. This norm establishes that illegal logging can be punished with inprisonment or a maximum fine of 500,000 Ringgit (ca. U$S 172,000). If the rule of the law were applied, the Minister himself would soon be in jail. Even if the State of Sabah has prohibited the export of logs since 1993, on January 18 1997 the Forestry Department of Sabah stopped the freighter “Able Helmsman” in the harbour of Tawau, which was transporting 16,000 cubic meters of wood in the form of 3,056 tree trunks valued at ca U$S 2,1 million. Prior to this action, six shipments of logs had apparently already been sent outside the country. The Department of Forestry ignored completely this fact. An investigation was ordered by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s Minister of Finance, who said “we are talking about tree trunks and not about pine needles”. Documents have been found confirming that Lim Keng Yaik’s department approved of the export ignoring the prohibition. At the same time, he admitted that his Ministry had issued many permits for the import of logs from Indonesia, even though this country has forbidden the export of tree trunks since the end of the 1980’s. In the meantime the Court has issued an order releasing the trunks. Nevertheless, Syarikat Raspand -the company involved- is suing the government for a total of U$S 38 million. The reason: illegal confiscation!

Source: Bruno-Manser Fonds Newsletter, September 1997.