Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mismanagement of Sarawak Forests

The state government is negligent in managing our forest resources. After the Forestry Corporation Sdn. Bhd., was formed, most employees of the Sarawak Forestry Department were not given work to do. Instead of recruiting more employees or officers, many were ordered to be “transferred” or seconded to other government departments and statutory bodies. Many that were given marching orders to somewhere else were not happy with what the state government had done. The Sarawak Forestry Union even brought the matter to court.

The enforcement of the laws of the Forest Ordinance and National Parks were said been carried out by the Sarawak Forestry Department, thus, depriving the forestry officers of their right to work. The dignity of these forestry officers suffered as were seen as “beggars” by their friends, relatives and other government staffs. This was because while receiving their pay, they were not giving work to do. It is a very sorry state. They were under “suspension” from work and with nothing to do, many had hid themselves away from friends and relatives because the impression against them was very bad as if they were government officers suspended from work for breach of discipline and pending investigations and disciplinary actions against them by the State Public Service Commission.

This went on for many years, not until recently, when the present Director of Forests took over office. But still, the Forests Department is not in full operation like before. Damage had already been done, as our huge forests had not been properly maintained and there had been lacking in law enforcement. The result is that there had been rampant illegal felling of our timbers by thieves. The officers of the Sarawak Forestry Corporation Sdn. Bhd., who took over most of the law enforcement work from the Forestry Department were legally toothless (my opinion) because they do not have the powers under the Sarawak Forests Ordinance to enforce the laws. The power is only given to the forest officers of the Forest Department, not to the officers of the Sarawak Forestry Corporation Sdn. Bhd.

Although the Sarawak Forestry Corporation Sdn. Bhd,. is a state-run company, those who benefited most were the directors as they were given directors’ allowances and other perks. The creation of the Sarawak Forestry Corporation Sdn. Bhd., was nothing, but, was made by the state government to please some top brass retired government officers and some retired officers from the Sarawak Forestry Department by giving them job by having them sit on the Board of Directors. They were paid huge allowances for shaking legs in office.

Although the present Director of Forests had tried to revamp and to restructure the whole work force of the department, damage had already been done. Millions of ringgits had gone in the smoke caused by illegal felling in the forest reserves and in national parks. I also pity the present Director of Forests because so much had he wanted to do, but, his hands were tied. I was told bonus of many staffs of the Sarawak Forestry employees for years 2006 and 2008 were owed and not paid until now and probably it is the only department where employees were still owed their bonuses and I have brought this matter in the recent DUN sitting. Without adequate staffing and proper manpower management in past years we should not blame, but, to appreciate the Audit Department in exposing the weaknesses and mismanagement of the Forests Department in protecting our forest resources and natural habitats. The minister responsible for our forest management should take the comments by the Auditor-General constructively and to study the report with the view of taking steps to improve our forest management. This is what the purpose of the Auditor-General’s was for.

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