KAPIT: The local people reacted angrily when they read the article ‘Massive debris not due to logging activities – Len’ on page five of The Borneo Post yesterday.
Since the arrival of the newspapers around 9am, many concerned civil servants, community leaders, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and even ordinary citizens called The Borneo Post insisting that the article was misleading the public.
They all had one common request – the incorrect must be corrected.
They asked why in this modern age of rapid advancement of technologies, the “big boss” did not check the facts first before making a misleading statement.
They, therefore, advised Len to go through reports compiled by various parties including a published statement by Minister of Land Development Dato Sri James Jemut Masing who personally flew over to the logjam area on Oct 13.
They felt that Datu Len Talif Salleh, the director of the Forest Department, was either misled by his sources of information or he had deliberately tried to cover up the main issue by blaming the rain.
A local councillor, Tan Kian Hoo, who telephoned from Kuching, was very annoyed after reading the article.
“It’s a shame that such a statement came from the mouth of the director. He should visit the affected areas,” he said.
To him, it’s not enough just to wait for reports because those on the ground sometimes have their own bias.
“Visit the site, I say. Seeing is believing,” he said.
On the claim that incessant heavy rain was to blame, he pointed out that at the time the logjam happened, the water level was normal,” he said.
He said that he travelled with Masing on Oct 13 to visit Sungai Melatai, the source of the logjam.
“We saw massive mudslides in logged areas but we were unsure whether legal or illegal loggers were operating there.
He claimed that they saw several stranded tractors and trucks as the road was impassable due to mudslides.
“Datu Len claimed that logging ceased in the area since 2007. Then, the government should prosecute the offenders because logging was on going in the area and yet no licence was issued after 2007,” he said.
He also pointed out that the president of the Sarawak National Party (SNAP), Edwin Dundang, recently claimed that the logjam was also caused by the construction of Murum Hydro-electric Dam.
This is also misleading although both Balui and Baleh are tributaries of Batang Rajang. Murum River (which is above Bakun) is a tributary of the Balui, while Sungai Melatai is a tributary of Baleh. So how could debris in Murum floated overland to Baleh, by-passing Bakun Hydro-electric Dam?
Tan, therefore, wanted the truth to prevail.
A senior official who preferred anonymity was surprised that Len made the statement in Kuching without first taking reports compiled by various agencies and authorities into account. As an example, he mentioned that during the logjam in Melatai, police reports were lodged at Kapit Police Station about two workers who went missing while checking a logging road affected by landslides.
They were later found in the river by a search and rescue team.
The official pointed out that making a false police report was an offence and the offender could be charged in court.
“Does anyone think the logging company concerned was having fun by making such a report?” he said.
The chairman of Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia), Edward Manggah, said whoever made a statement – such as Len’s – should speak with much care after considering the pros and cons.
“Blaming the weather is most convenient. Maybe you can bluff people in Peninsula Malaysia or even Kuching but not the locals who were eyewitnesses,” he said.
He recalled that he and his committee members travelled in a longboat to Sungai Melatai on Oct 13 and spoke to the affected longhouse folks along the river.
According to him, the locals said heavy machines made their way right to the river bank to cut trees.
In the process, they destroyed and killed the surrounding vegetation, which later comprised the main bulk of the debris that ended in the logjam.
“Len claimed that logging in Sungai Melatai area ceased since 2007. But a local man was still paid by a logging firm to work in upper Sungai Melatai where the logjam happened on Oct 7,” he said.
“Mind you, during the logjam some people might have died because they could not reach the hospital. The authorities did not tell the people the whole truth and to a certain extent neglected the welfare of the rural folk who suffered like hell.”
Kapit Resident Dahim Nadot admitted that he also received numerous enquiries yesterday.
However, he declined to make any comment except to say that “the truth is the truth”.