Hornbill Unleashed

December 16, 2011

‘Political corruption a major factor in deforestation’

S Pathmawathy

Decades of political corruption are seen as the main contributor to the depleting natural forest cover, says Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M), with the felling of timber being the foremost revenue for political funding.

“Unfortunately, corruption has become a root cause of deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, including Malaysia,” TI-M’s secretary-general Josie M Fernandez said.In her keynote address at a TI-M forum under the Forest Governance Integrity Programme (FGI), Josie  said countries rich in forests are well-known to “suffer” from a high level of corruption.

NONECiting a World Bank report, she said an estimated “US$10 to US$23 billion worth of timber is illegally felled or produced from suspicious origins” and the forestry sector “thrives and depends on corruption”.

In turn, Josie said, the widespread corruption influenced land policies, which were under the direct purview of the states, and were in effect controlled by politicians.

Although Josie stressed that the situation was not unique to Malaysia, she reminded “the ruling elite” that natural resources were not to be treated “as personal fiefdom” to be sold, regardless of the laws in force.

Data on protected areas, forest reserves lacking


Perceptions of the elite as corrupt, she said, would prevail “as long as there is no accountability and transparency in how concessions and timber licences are awarded”.

Speaking to reporters later, Josie said there could be a situation where timber concessions and logging licences awarded exceeded the acreage of the primary forest in the country.

The lack of current and accurate information on the statistics of the “protected areas and forest reserves” was among the factors for the prevailing fraudulent practices.

“Corruption in forestry thrives because, even though publicly condemned, it has been tolerated,” she said.

According to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s 2010 annual report that was released in April, Peninsular Malaysia alone lost RM8.95 million in royalties from illegal logging.

Stressing that the nation’s forests were at stake, Josie urged the government to restructure revenue-concentrated forestry policies and to move towards “sustainable extraction and conservation”.

The Swiss NGO campaigning against corruption in Sarawak, Bruno Manser Fund, and online news portal Sarawak Report have been insisting that uncontrolled timber extraction would destroy 90 percent of Sarawak’s forests by 2020.

However, Chief Minister Taib Mahmud has denied this charge, saying 70 percent of Sarawak’s rainforest is still intact, while 14 percent of its “secondary forests” have been replanted or are in the process of being converted into plantations.


  1. That crook built the Borneo High Way so he can grap those land for plantation.

    Comment by RC — December 18, 2011 @ 10:35 AM | Reply

  2. Timbers turn money, money goes to Taib and his cronies pocket only. Sarawakians.. WHAT SAY YOU??become ANGRY BIRD?

    Comment by babai — December 16, 2011 @ 6:51 PM | Reply


    Taib’s double talk cannot hide the fact of his organised gang rape of our virgin forests and people.

    His major crime is the crime against humanity by the mass land grab of native land and impoverishment of thousands of rural dwellers, vandalizing and pollution of the environment by timber logging activities and turning the stolen land into one crop plantation.

    The Transparency International forum is just one more search light being shone on timber corruption.

    The pity is that TI Malaysia is just like many local organizations which exist and are permitted to make comments but locally they can hardly make headway to take legal actions against the corruption.

    However, they must initiate legal actions in other countries like the UK France USA Canada Australia where there are stronger and less manipulated legal systems.

    A number of African dictators have been prosecuted in France with their assets frozen.

    Comment by ANGRY DAYAK — December 16, 2011 @ 5:38 PM | Reply

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