The Punan Ba community in Belaga had been fighting encroachment of their land by illegal logger.

KUCHING: At a rare gathering of Sarawak’s biggest timber tycoons, Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem surprised the audience by labelling the industry “corrupt.”

And he warned the logging bosses that he will “put the fear of God into people who are dishonest”.

Adenan, who on Monday brought together bosses of the state’s “big six” logging firms to sign “integrity pledges”, took the opportunity to issue his sternest warning yet on illegal logging.

He named the big six as KTS, Rimbunan Hijau, Samling, Shin Yang, Ta Ann and WTK and told them “don’t mess with me”.

To the officers enforcing the state’s logging laws, Adenan warned that he will not tolerate officers “with eyes but blind, with ears but deaf and with mouths but dumb”.

He described the present state of corruption as “very bad, a reflection of what enforcement officers have not been doing”.

“Some, of course not all, pretend they don’t know. The reason is very simple; either they are stupid, cowards or corrupt,” Adenan said to a stunned audience, comprising state Cabinet members, civil servants and some of Sarawak’s richest individuals.

“I’ll get you with the assistance of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC). If we let these things go on we’ll lose our forests.

“Some (enforcers) have said they are afraid of gangsters, they are afraid of receiving bullets in the mail, well, you tell them, ‘Adenan told you to enforce the law’. No more excuses not to do anything.”

Adenan said Sarawakians must not tolerate corruption anymore because millions had been lost revenue and the state gained a bad reputation internationally because of “this robbery which is carried out in broad daylight.”

He told the logging firms to “watch out and lecture your contractors, sub-contractors, camp managers, suppliers, etc.”

“Tell them to be careful, insist they must pledge integrity,” he said.

Adenan added he was sure the MACC would be making more arrests.

Timber industry is the most corrupt said Sarawak Chief Minister.

“I mean what I say. I do not ‘cakap sahaja’ (talk only), no action… The state of corruption is very bad. Very bad. I cannot tolerate it anymore.”

Adenan said he would “go after” civil servants and require them to attend talks by the MACC and to get his Cabinet to sign integrity pledges.

He said the state government would also gazette more forests as national parks.

“I will create more national parks, more than the United Nations requirement of 10% (of the state’s land mass).”

The signing of the integrity pledges by the logging firms was held at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly complex here.

This present sitting is in the closing stages and the issue of illegal logging has been hotly debated.

Criticisms by Violet Yong (DAP-Pending) against Second Resource Planning and Environment Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan for failing to curb illegal logging has landed her in trouble.

A motion to refer Yong to the privileges committee was passed, due to her comments last Friday when she said: “If I were the minister, I would have resigned and felt ashamed of myself and not know where to hide my face. And if I were the minister in charge of this portfolio in Japan, I would have killed myself.”

The motion against Yong was proposed by Tengah himself, who said he felt insulted, and seconded by Welfare, Women and Family Development Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah, after Yong refused to retract her statement in the House when given the opportunity.

Yong told reporters later that she was unsatisfied with Tengah’s past answers on illegal logging in Sarawak, which had necessitated Adenan to own up to failures and step up enforcement.

State Opposition leader Chong Chieng Jen (DAP-Kota Sentosa) defended Yong, saying Tengah’s past assurance of “only 0.01%” of lost revenue due to illegal logging contrasted against Adenan’s statements, which showed the former had indeed failed in his duties to protect the forest.

Chong also criticised Tengah for not following the chief minister’s move to sign the integrity pledge. — The Star