AT RISK

New Straits Times - - Opinion - The writer is NST’s spe­cial­ist writer based in Tereng­ganu. He is an en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist, and en­joys cap­tur­ing the beauty of flora and fauna in its frag­ile en­vi­ron­ment

Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Dr Wan Ju­naidi Tuanku Jaa­far, to his credit, re­sponded as soon as the re­port about the in­ci­dent ap­peared on the NST web­site.

He wanted the po­lice to catch the cul­prits for harm­ing forestry of­fi­cers who were per­form­ing their du­ties.

Il­le­gal log­ging in Tereng­ganu is a se­ri­ous mat­ter. It is preva­lent in all seven dis­tricts all year round, with con­cen­tra­tion in Ke­ma­man, Dun­gun, Hulu Tereng­ganu, Setiu and Be­sut.

In­sid­ers say th­ese log­gers are or­gan­ised, some with mas­ter­minds so pow­er­ful that they con­trol loader op­er­a­tors to deny en­force­ment of­fi­cers the co­op­er­a­tion needed to trans­port seized heavy ma­chin­ery.

In an op­er­a­tion in Be­sut last year, en­force­ment of­fi­cers had to wait for more than eight hours to get a loader to carry a seized ex­ca­va­tor. The de­lay was in­ten­tional and meant to frus­trate the of­fi­cers to leave the ma­chin­ery un­guarded.

Ar­rests are few and far be­tween as the cul­prits would have been fore­warned by ton­tos.

Maybe it is time for other agen­cies, in­clud­ing the Malaysian Anti-Cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion and the Road Trans­port Depart­ment, to be in­volved.

The state Forestry Depart­ment also needs to boost its man­power. Its en­force­ment unit has 10 per­son­nel. That is sim­ply not enough. Their role is im­por­tant be­cause tim­ber is one of the ma­jor rev­enue con­trib­u­tors to the state.

Il­le­gal log­ging con­trib­utes to en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age and has been iden­ti­fied as one of the causes for floods. Many of the flora and fauna at risk have medic­i­nal val­ues. It would be a pity to lose it all.

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