Wan Junaidi: Cops, military not equipped to protect forests

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PETALING JAYA: Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar says the move to engage the police and military to protect the country’s forests and wildlife has proven ineffective.

He said the police and the Armed Forces personnel ended-up functioning as security guards instead as they were not well-versed in the types of trees or animal species that populated the forests.

According to him, the groups had been brought in to assist the Forestry Department and the Wildlife Department as part of the National Blue Ocean Strategy.

He noted the challenges of insufficient manpower to look after such vast areas, where logs were under threat of theft and animals were subjected to poaching activities.

“The area itself is huge, and there is the challenge of moving from place to place.

“It is not so much the technology. Highly specialised enforcement cannot be achieved with a combination of several agencies.

“The police and the Armed Forces coming together to prevent the theft of logs and animal poaching have proven ineffective.

“The reason is, the two groups do not understand the forest or the animals,” he said, adding that police are¬†trained to handle crime, not environmental issues.

Wan Junaidi said this during a panel discussion on “Building the policy framework” at the Sustainability Summit 2017 here today.

He was responding to a question by moderator Miranda Johnson, Southeast Asia’s correspondent for The Economist, who asked why there was a large disconnect between regulation and enforcement in Asia.

Other panellists were Centre for Liveable Cities founding chairman Liu Thai-Ker, and Integrated Environment Policy and Planning executive director Mohamed Yousef Al Madfaei.

Wan Junaidi said it was the highly trained individuals from the two departments who did the work, as they had a better understanding of the various species of animals that roamed the forests and the types of trees that could be harvested for logging, as well as how many hectares could be cleared.

“All these (challenges) make enforcement difficult. And the state is not assisting very much.

“Everything is reliant on the enforcement agencies, and they themselves are short-handed,” he added.