Shafie: Special privileges given to timber concessionaires at expense of Yayasan Sabah

Last week, Shafie announced a surprise decision to ban all export of logs from the state. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana
Last week, Shafie announced a surprise decision to ban all export of logs from the state. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana

KOTA KINABALU, May 29 — Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal today said the state government decided to ban the export of timber and review all timber concessionaires because there were certain ‘exclusive operators’ who were profiteering from Sabah’s logs at the expense of Yayasan Sabah.

Shafie, who is Yayasan Sabah Chairman, defined these ‘exclusive operators’ as companies that enjoyed ‘special privileges’ from the previous government and former chief minister which involved the extraction of logs, their purchase and the privilege of exporting them at high prices while Yayasan Sabah received a pittance of the profits.

In a statement today, Shafie expressed disbelief and sadness when he found out that Rakyat Berjaya Sdn Bhd (RBJ), a wholly owned subsidiary and operator of Yayasan Sabah’s timber resources, had been in the red for four out of five years since 2013.

“It looks like the well-connected ‘exclusive contractors’ are reaping in fat profits out of logging activities while Yayasan Sabah is paid a pittance and in some cases, even incurs debts.

“From a lucrative subsidiary earning billions of ringgit for the foundation, RBJ can now be best described as an ailing company with a bleak future unless drastic steps are taken to reform the company,” said Shafie.

“It is obvious that only a handful of people are benefiting from the logging operations while Yayasan Sabah is forced to downsize as there is very little money for its operations.”

He added that RBJ’s operations seem to indicate that the company could make better profits if logs were processed into sawn timber or if it sold the logs directly.

Last week, Shafie announced a surprise decision to ban all export of logs from the state and said the rationale was that state logs could be processed locally so that legal sawmills can operate and provide sawn timber and other value-added products, which in turn would create more job opportunities for Sabah youths.

He followed up with another announcement yesterday that all timber concessionaires of Forest Management Units (FMUs) will be reviewed to ensure none were flouting the rules or in conflict with Sabah’s wildlife.

“There is an urgent need to put matters right and I will pave the way for Yayasan Sabah to regain its glory days and be able to finance its core activities of providing education and free medical services to the needy.”

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