Forestry Dept acts tough on wayward timber firms

Sapuan Ahmad

Sapuan Ahmad

KUCHING: The state Forestry Department will no longer tolerate the irresponsible attitude of downstream timber companies and will take stern action against those found in possession of illegal logs or timber.

State Forestry director Sapuan Ahmad said beginning next month, after a grace period of one year since the endorsement of a new forest ordinance in April 2015, the government will go all out to clamp down on mill operators and downstream wood-based industries found manufacturing or trading illegal logs and timber products.

The Forests Ordinance 2015 includes provision for more deterrent penalties.

For example, those who build or operate an illegal sawmill can be charged under Section 62 of the Ordinance, which provides for a penalty of not less than RM500,000 and not exceeding RM10 million or/and imprisonment not exceeding five to seven years.

“We have issued a circular in January 2015, prohibiting possession of logs or timber without royalty but there are cases of those not adhering to the law. From April 1, there will be no more excuses. Enough is enough, we have given them a 12-month grace period.

“Now we mean business. All logs and timber at sawmills must have its royalty assessed,” he told reporters after briefing mill operators and downstream wood-based companies at Wisma Sumber Alam here yesterday.

The programme ‘Enforcement on Legal Source of Timber at Sawmills in Sarawak’ was attended by about 60 representatives from the relevant industries.

The series of briefing, which started in Sibu and attracted 92 participants, was to ensure that all the state’s downstream timber companies comply with the rules and regulations pertaining to forestry.

The briefing will next be held in Miri.

He added that from April 1, a tracking system will be enforced, where all logs and timber taken out from licensed areas must pass through one of the 48 ‘One-Stop Compliance Centres’ (OSCC) in the state to be stamped with a royalty mark before they go to the sawmills.

All enforcement agencies including the police force, Marine Department, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) will assist the department to seize illegal logs and timber.

Since the enforcement of the new ordinance, a total of 32 cases had been recorded involving the seizure of 6,000 cubic metres of logs without royalty found at the sawmills.

Sapuan warned operators not to buy or process illegal logs or timber in their mills, reiterating that the Forestry Department will continue its close monitoring and strict enforcement to ensure only legal timber enters the supply chain.

“Any operator who commits a breach of any terms and conditions of their licence shall be guilty of an offence under Section 62 (6)(b) of the Forests Ordinance 2015 and upon conviction, be punished with a fine not less than RM10,000 and not exceeding RM5,000 for each day the offence continues after conviction.

“In addition to that, those found in unlawful possession of any forest produce shall be guilty of an offence and shall, upon conviction, be punished under Section 96(1) and a fine of not less than RM25,000 and not exceeding RM150,000 or imprisonment not exceeding five years or both. Subsequent offence shall be punished with a fine of not less than RM150,000 and not exceeding RM500,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or both,” he pointed out.

He reminded operators to keep all documents of the logs and timber at their mills such as Transit Removal Pass, Royalty Pass, Shipping Pass, Land Transportation Pass and Log Specs as proof that they are legally sourced.

And if sawmill operators are found in possession of any illegal logs or timber, their mill licence shall be suspended or revoked, he added.