‘Work with us if you are sincere’
KUCHING: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem says Sarawak is willing to work with NGOs which have been campaigning against the state’s timber industry in conserving and managing its forest.
Speaking at his meeting with the NGOs, including the Bruno Manser fund, at the Malaysian High Commission in London on Monday he told the conservationists that the state would rather work with them than against them and hoped they would reciprocate by working with the state.
“We invite UK NGOs to work with Sarawak and share their technologies in helping Sarawak combat illegal logging, enhance conservation of its wildlife and improve the socio economy of its indigenous people.”
However, he said the NGOs must be sincere and be prepared to listen to the views of the state and not presume they were the only experts in forest management.
“If your agenda is truly conservation and sustainable management of our forests, we are prepared to work with you. If your agenda is something else, I am sorry, I can’t work with you. You are not the only experts in this field, there are others who are also experts,” Adenan stressed.
He pointed out to representatives of the NGOs that Sarawak had 8,417,242 hectares of forested area which is 68 per cent of its total area.
Stressing that the state had nothing to hide from the world in its policies on exploitation of its forest resources, Adenan said the weakness was the enforcement of the systems, policies and legislations.
“Sarawak has in spite of all the challenges and accusations done its utmost to ensure a balance between development and conservation in order to safeguard loss of natural resources, biodiversity and environmental values.
“The weakness is the enforcement of the system. And it is because of corruption and illegal felling of timber and forest officers who pretend not to know.”
He told the audience that a task force committee on combating illegal logging and improved logistics support are in place.
“In 2014, 136 cases were investigated involving 119 suspects and 33,292 pieces of logs have been confiscated. 32,773 pole timber of differing sizes had also been seized.”
To a question from WWF on how the organisation could help in the conservation of the state’s forests, Adenan said the state would put WWF in the subcommittee and that their voice will be heard, provided that those views are sincere.
The chief minister added that since he took over 14 months ago, there had been some changes to the forest policy directions.
“I don’t allow any more timber concession. I don’t allow any more new plantation. All the timber operators within the “Heart of Borneo” concession areas must obtain its sustainable forest management certification by 2017.”
When asked about the mega dams that had been planned in Sarawak Adenan said, “The talk about us building 12 dams, is just what we plan to do, if possible, not concrete plan. The idea is to build dam for energy. We have water. We have rivers. Why cannot we make the resources generate energy?
However, he admitted the state had not handled the resettlement of the displaced people well and pledged to improve on that aspect of the dam construction.
“There will be problems with resettlement, we admit we made mistakes, but we shall have to settle them as it comes along.”
The chief minister was also asked if the state was willing to sign the Europe Forest Law Enforcement, Government and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement which he said, “In relation to rules and regulations of timber legality assurance system, you keep changing on rules. We are prepared to consider complying to it provided you make the rules permanent and consult us what the rules are going to be like. We are the producers. Are you prepared to not to change the rules half way to suit some commercial interest somewhere else? “
Among the representatives at the dialogue were NGOs present were Harfiyah Haleem of Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Roger Wolens of The Green Organisation, Prof Paul Davis, Valerie De Liedekerke of WWF-UK, Mr Roger Wilson of World Land Trust, Anouska Perram of Forest Peoples Programme, Viola Belorhad of Forest Peoples Programme, Tracy Lane of International Hydropower Association and Clare Brown Rowcastle of Sarawak Report.
The chief minister was also approached by an indigenous Penan delegation from Sarawak’s Upper Baram region where the Penans handed the Chief Minister a letter in which they called for the official endorsement of the Penan Peace Park, a community-administered nature reserve in the interior of Borneo.