The Sarawak state government must face the shame of being exposed before the whole world for their vain attempts all these years to hide the wanton rape of the Sarawak forests, says Kua Kia Soong.
The environmental disaster of the recent 50km logjam on the Rajang River has totally exposed the Sarawak state and federal government’s attempts all these years to tell the world that they practise responsible logging. The logs and debris from upriver above Kapit have destroyed fish life and affected bridges and villages along the length of the river. The State Environment Minister has called this disaster “unprecedented and beyond imagination”.
Land Development Minister James Masing has blamed unscrupulous timber companies for the disaster. He said this was the third time in three years that such an incident had happened and called on the authorities concerned to take their job more seriously and enforce the laws stringently.
Now, if the Environment Ministry and the Land Development Ministries are not the authorities concerned with logging, who are? Even before this latest disaster, the once mighty and beautiful Rajang had long been defiled by earth and debris from irresponsible logging upstream and turned into an unsightly river the colour of teh tarik.
State govt must bear total responsibility
For years, the Sarawak state government has ruthlessly kept out NGO activists such as me from their own country state of Sarawak. The reason given by the Immigration officers at Kuching Airport is that we have been excluded for “anti-logging activities”. This is a total disgrace for Malaysia, which tries to pride itself as a modern democratic country that practises human rights.
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Sarawak’s Chief Minister Abdul Taib bin Mahmud has dominated politics for the past two decades. He has the sole authority to grant or deny logging concessions. The licensing of logging concessions has been used as a political tool and a means to amass personal wealth. Timber tycoons and the ruling government party own controlling interests in all the major newspapers, TV stations and radio stations and they ensure that all information about logging, corruption and nepotism ise censored.
Thus, the Sarawak state government must bear total responsibility for this latest disaster and face the shame of being exposed before the whole world for their vain attempts all these years to hide the wanton rape of the Sarawak forests. Sarawak has been reliant on timber as the largest source of revenue for the state for too long. It contributes nearly a billion ringgit annually, or about 37 per cent of the total state revenue. Logging companies have wantonly encroached on forest that traditionally belongs to the Kayan, Kenyah, and Penan. Deforestation has also resulted in the decimation of jungle life that the indigenous people hunt for food. There have also been reports of logging workers robbing Penan communities, molesting their women and desecrating their graves It has been estimated that 90 per cent of the virgin jungle has been logged in the past 40 years alone.
Kua Kia Soong is director of the human rights group Suaram