If The State Government Can Not Prove That The Bukit Beruang Forest Reserve Has Been Degazetted, Then Any Logging Is Illegal And The Culprits Must Face A Mandatory Jail Sentence Of One Year To A Maximum Jail Of 20 Years And A Maximum Fine Of RM 500,000
by Lim Guan Eng
(Melaka, Thursday): The Melaka Forestry Department must decide between its statutory role of protecting forest reserves and its widely perceived role by the public of supporting the wanton destruction of forest reserves for development. The failures of the Melaka Forestry Department to protect forest reserve were highlighted by its support of the Melaka State government to degazette 26.3 hectares and 41 hectares from the Sungai Udang and Bukit Beruang permanent forest reserve respectively.
The Melaka Forestry Department even compounded such gross failure by refusing to provide me with public information about which forest reserve, how much and when they were degazetted. I had wanted to know whether the 41 hectares in Bukit Beruang Permanent Forest Reserve was degazetted and if so when. My inability to locate the relevant degazette of the 41 hectares when I perused 48 volumes of the entire 2004 Melaka State Gazette at the Melaka State Legal Advisor’s office gives rise to two questions:
If the state government is unable to prove that 41 hectares of Bukit Beruang permanent forest reserve has been degazetted, then any logging already carried out is illegal. The culprits carrying out such illegal logging will be considered taking jungle produce without permission; and thus under Section 15(2) of the National Forestry Act subject to a mandatory jail sentence of one year to a maximum of 20 years and a maximum fine of RM 500,000-00. Stern action should be taken against those logging permanent forest reserves that were not properly and legally excised.
Whilst checking the 48 volumes of State Gazette, I made an unexpected discovery of 26.3 hectares degazetted from another permanent forest reserve in Sungai Udang. Datuk Mohd Ali has again refused to explain the necessity for such action and the type of development he has planned. Neither was he willing to explain that apart from a few developers, how the people of Melaka can benefit from such destruction of permanent forest reserve.
I am disappointed that the Forestry Department, instead of offering such public information freely, refused to even confirm whether any forest reserve was degazetted. I had the unfortunate impression that the Forestry Department was trying to cover-up something. Such refusal does not conform to the Department’s stated aim of protecting our environment and natural heritage to be enjoyed by future generations.
DAP calls on the Forestry Department to protect forest reserves and insist that any forest reserve excised must be replaced with an equivalent land area in accordance with Section 12 of the National Forestry Act. It is sad that most state governments do not comply with the good intentions and spirit behind section 12 to protect and retain our existing area of permanent forest reserves.
On 14 January 2005, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said that only 58% of the country’s total land area remains covered by tropical forests due to extensive logging activities. He added that to ensure that existing forests are protected; forest areas must not be reduced but expanded. The failure to comply with section 12 of the National Forestry Act will only result in forest areas being reduced much less expanded.
The Melaka Forestry Department must strictly enforce Section 12 and replace any forest reserve excised for development if Melaka is not to be denuded of permanent forest reserves and go “bald”. As the table below shows, in 2003(before the excision of forest reserves) Melaka has only 5,463 hectares of permanent forest reserve. With large-scale excision and degazetting of permanent forest reserves after the 2004 general elections still awaiting discovery, the danger of Melaka going “bald” is very real.
* Lim Guan Eng, DAP Secretary-General