KUCHING, Nov 2 ― Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan ordered today a multi-agency probe into the questionable release of confiscated timber worth millions of ringgit purportedly by the Forestry Department.
Awang Tengah, who is also the state’s second minister of urban development and natural resources, declined to name the investigating agencies, but said it would exclude the Forestry Department.
“Yes, I have directed the release to be the investigated after reading a new media report a few days ago," he told reporters after attending an integrity address to state Barisan Nasional supporters and community leaders by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg here.
Awang Tengah was responding to a news report by local daily The Borneo Post highlighting the release of illegally felled trees by a private company that had been impounded in August.
“I don't know whether something fishy was going on and that was why I have asked the agencies to do the investigation,” he said, adding that no report has been lodged with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission at the moment.
Asked to respond on a claim by the state Forest director Sapuan Ahmad that the release of 3,500 logs and 14 units of heavy machineries was at the recommendation of a committee, Awang Tengah said he does not know which committee the director was talking about.
“Certainly the committee that he was talking about is not the anti-logging committee, which is chaired by me,” he said, adding that the anti-logging committee consists of representatives from his ministry, MACC, police, Forest Department and Forestry Corporation Sdn Bhd.
The Borneo Post reported on October 27 that the illegal logs and machineries, worth a total RM7 million, were seized in an operation carried out by the Sarawak Forestry Corporation and a company in Bintulu in August this year.
The logs and machineries were seized from outside of a concession area.
Following the seizure, a report was lodged with the Tatau police and subsequently the logs and machineries were handed over to Forest Department by SFC for appropriate action.
In a report today, The Borneo Post cited Sapuan as saying that a committee, set up to probe the felling of trees, concluded that there was no case against the companies involved in felling the trees.
The logs were then released to the village security and development committee of the area through the village chief while the vehicles comprising two tractors, 10 excavators, a shovel and a dump truck were returned to companies which felled the logs.