Timber body rubbishes claims of illegal logging in interior Sabah

The convoy of lorries carrying timber logs, alleged to be from Sapulut.

KOTA KINABALU: The Timber Association of Sabah (TAS) has dismissed a claim from an opposition leader that illegal logging activity is taking place at a forest reserve in Sabah’s interior.

Its deputy president, Norman Wong, said Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) president Jeffrey Kitingan should have gathered more facts before urging the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to probe the “sensationalised matter”.

Jeffrey had urged the MACC yesterday to launch an immediate investigation into the alleged activities at Sapulut, 220km from here, following a video spread over social media recently.

He said he was shocked to see the video that purportedly showed up to 56 lorries loaded with logs leaving Sapulut for Kalabakan in Tawau.

Wong said the convoy of lorries was travelling from the western part of Sabah, which includes the districts of Nabawan, Sook, Keningau and Tenom, to Tawau.

“While the number of lorries seems as if they are carrying a large amount of timber, 56 loads of round logs equates to little more than 2,000 cubic metres of timber.

“For scale and comparison, that is around the monthly input for a medium-sized sawmill, hardly an outlandish volume to be transported at one time.

“On closer examination, the photos show the logs were properly chiselled and labelled, which means due process was followed,” he said in a statement to FMT.

Wong said the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD) is tasked with ensuring any timber used in Sabah is from legal and sustainable sources.

He said the SFD takes its responsibility seriously, adding that the Timber Legality Assurance System (TLAS) is followed and enforced.

“Before calling the MACC to probe this matter, it would have been better to have gathered more facts in order not to waste important public resources.

“What is more worrying is the implied ‘devilisation’ of the forestry and timber industry as a whole,” Wong said.

He said the government had spoken strongly about halting illegal logging.

“However, utilising sustainable sources of wood is one of the keys to a sustainable response to Sabah’s economic needs and the bigger question of climate change.

“To imply that all logging is illegal, unsustainable and should be stopped is misleading. It shows a dangerous and skewed view of facts,” he said.

Jeffrey, who is the Tambunan assemblyman, said there are those who defended such logging activity, saying the timber licences were approved by the previous Barisan Nasional government.

“But if the Warisan government’s new policy is to weed out commercial logging, why didn’t it cancel these logging licences?” he asked in a statement yesterday.