Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Malaysian logging scandal may delay trade negotiations with the E.U.

Malaysian logging scandal may delay trade negotiations with the E.U.

mongabay.comAugust 25, 2008

Sarawak's Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud, has been linked to a timber trade scheme involving illegal imports of Indonesian logs and which were then re-exported as Malaysian timber to other countries, including China, Taiwan, and Japan, reports the Indonesian newspaper Tribun Pontianak.

An environmental group is using the scandal as the basis for a request for the E.U. to delay timber trade talks with Malaysia.

The Bruno Manser Fund, a Switzerland-based NGO that promotes the rights of forest people on the island of Borneo, says the allegations show that "Malaysia is currently unable to fulfill the requirements of a voluntary partnership agreement with the EU, because of widespread corruption at government level, particularly in the timber-rich state of Sarawak."

Malaysia hopes to have all of its timber exports to the EU certified as being of legal origin. The negotiations have carried on for nearly three years to date. The timber scam was uncovered during a joint investigation by an Indonesian-based NGO and a UK-based charity. Bribes were paid to the forest controller.

Sarawak Timber Industry Development, a state agency, has also been implicated in the scheme, which is similar to other smuggling operations uncovered in recent years.