“If Adenan is serious about curbing illegal logging activities, he has to remove Awang Tengah, otherwise the forest officers see his retention as a sign of weakness on the part of the chief minister,” said Chong when asked to comment on Adenan’s warning to enforcement and forestry officers against taking bribes over illegal logging.
Chong said that Awang Tengah, who was appointed by the then-chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud had been there for the last 10 years and he was seen as not doing anything on illegal logging.
The second minister had been “sleeping” on his job, he added.
On the seizures of logs, Chong, who is the MP for Bandar Kuching and the state assemblyperson for Kota Sentosa, said that he had seen photographs taken on the logs that were seized for the past three months.
Those were small logs which had no commercial value and there were only good for pallets, he said.
“Those seizures are not true... it was only for show and the message is since you want to catch the illegal logging we let you catch some.
“I don’t see pictures of big logs being seized,” Chong (left) said, pointing out that if Adenan was really serious about curbing illegal logging activities he had to do something drastic such as removing his second minister.
In the November sitting of the state assembly, a number of DAP lawmakers had asked Adenan to remove Awang Tengah as he was not effective against illegal logging, resulting in the loss of hundreds of millions of ringgit in terms of revenue.
The rampancy of illegal logging activities came to light after Adenan took over as chief minister on Feb 28, 2014 from Taib who relinquished the chief ministership after helming the state administration for more than 33 years.
In the past few months Adenan had been meeting with enforcement officers, timber tycoons and timber operators and telling them that he was serious about corruption and illegal logging activities.
Last Thursday, Adenan told enforcement and forestry officers over dinner that he might need the assistance of the Malaysian Anti-corruption Commission if illegal logging activities still persisted.
Expressing his frustration with some forestry officers, Adenan, who is the First Resource Planning and Environment Minister, said that despite that Sarawak having one of the best detection systems to monitor logging activities, illegal logging activities continued to rampage the state forests and national parks.
He said that the state’s detection systems were accessible to satellite photos and topography and mapping system, and yet the officers were unable at the touch of a button to determine areas with licensed operators and those of illegal logging.
“This must be due lack of expertise apart from weak enforcement and corruption among forestry officers,” he said.
He said some forest officers did not even know the boundaries of timber concessions and companies operating within their areas, while some chose to accept bribes to guarantee their safety against illegal operators carrying weapons.
He admitted that stories of corrupt practices amongst enforcement officers were not rumours, adding that illegal logging activities had gotten worse that even national parks were encroached and found it very suspicious when officers were unaware of their surroundings.
He said: “We have started war against illegal logging and smuggling of logs. Sarawak forest is our treasure. Like all treasures, we should take great care and love our forests.
“I mean what I said... don’t mess with me,” he told forestry officers and other diners.
Awang Tengah was one of those present.