Saturday, August 23, 2008

Taib implicated in Indonesian timber scam (Malaysiakini)

Indonesian logs are being illegally imported into Sarawak and re-exported as local timber to other countries, including China, Taiwan and Japan, according to an Indonesian newspaper report.

In the Aug 14 edition of the Tribun Pontianak, the Pontianak-based Indonesian language daily also implicated chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud and Hardwood Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned unit of state agency Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC).

"The good name of the chief minister and that of the government-owned company have been marred by the report," Ng Kim Ho, PKR Sarawak state chief told Malaysiakini.

Ng said PKR will lodge a report with the Anti Corruption Agency on the matter.

According to him, the Tribun Pontianak report was serious enough to warrant immediate investigation by the authorities here, especially since Indonesia and Malaysia have an existing agreement prohibiting the illegal export of logs.

"Let the relevant authorities carry out an immediate and thorough investigation," said Ng, who is also assemblyperson for Padungan.

The front-page news report was accompanied by a chart detailing how logs were being transported illegally from the forests in Ketapang and how they were being shipped out of West Kalimantan to two places.

The names of some middlemen purportedly involved in the scam were also mentioned.

According to the report, several individuals were charged in an Indonesian court for complicity in illegal timber trade, including the forest controller for the area, a M Darwis.

The report said Darwis admitted to receiving bribe money from the individuals in exchange for allowing the logs to be iilegally taken out of Ketapang.

The forest controller told the court the bribe money amounted to between Rp 10 million and Rp 40 million for each shipment of between 800 and 1,000 cubic metres of timber.

About 30 shipments of illegal logs worth some Rp2.16 trillion (about RM750,000) were being taken out either by land or sea across to the East Malaysian state every month.

NGOs go undercover

An Indonesian-based NGO together with a UK-based NGO investigating the illegal timber trade in Indonesia had gone undercover to Sarawak, where they traced the eventual destination of the logs.

The name of Hardwood Sdn Bhd was implicated, although Tribun Pontianak erroneously reported the firm was owned by ‘the governor of Sarawak' Abdul Taib Mahmud.

The news report also highlighted a dialogue the European Commission had in Kuching with various stake-holders and NGOs on issues of the legality of the timber being exported to Europe.

The legality issue is tied to, among other things, the sources of the timber and respect for the rights of indigenuous groups living on the land from which the timber is extracted.

Malaysiakini understands some of the logs end up being processed by local industries, which would otherwise face a shortage because of an increase in manufacturing activities and also because Sarawak still allowed the export of timber.

Up to 40 percent of the total annual production of round logs is exportable.

Timber is one of Sarawak's main earners accounting for several billions of ringgits in export revenue each year.
news courtesy of Malaysiakini