Wednesday, 20 May 2009

S'wak minister: We don't condone illegal timber -

May 19,

A senior state minister has denied the accusation by an opposition leader that the Sarawak government has been condoning illegal timber activities involving Indonesian timber smuggled into the state across the common border.

Second Planning and Resource Management Minister Awang Tengah Ali Hassan said in the state legislative assembly yesterday: "The state government does not condone any activities on illegal logging."

He said the Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC) - a state government agency which is headed by him - will remain vigilant in enforcing all laws and regulations governing the importation of timber into Sarawak and strengthen the enforcement capabilities along the Sarawak-Indonesian border.

Awang Tengah was responding to the accusation by DAP state assemblyperson for Pending Violet Yong regarding the importation of illegal Indonesian timber called batak without valid export documentation from the Indonesian authorities through the port of Sematan.

The port is under the control of a STIDC subsidiary company Harwood Timber Sdn Bhd.

Indonesian media had highlighted the problem and the Indonesian Consulate General for Sabah and Sarawak had even lodged an official complaint to the Sarawak government and asked for the latter's cooperation to put an end to such activities.

'CM is involved charge baseless'

The Sarawak minister did not respond directly to that but said the allegation implicating Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud as being involved in the illegal importation of Indonesian timber was "totally baseless and absolutely unfounded."

illegal timber route from ketapang indonesia to sematan sarawak 150509Yong had highlighted the issue twice - once during the assembly sitting in November last year and again during the current sitting.

Awang Tengah told the assembly yesterday that the importation of Indonesian batak timber with legal documentation was insignificant in volume (only about 752 cubic metres compared with 1.5 million cubic metres produced locally during the first quarter of this year).

He said the Sarawak timber industry does not rely on batak timber.

In a related matter, the minister said due to the global economic slowdown, Sarawak's timber export declined nearly 30 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period last year, with export valued dropping from RM1.873 billion to RM1.315 billion.

Both timber production and export dropped in quantity due to the declining demand from traditional markets in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the US, he added.

Timber has traditionally been one of Sarawak's main export earners.