At last, hard work, courage and sweat may seem to have paid off for those who stood up against the loggers in Kelantan.
After much publicity – thanks to social media – and the mass media itself, some sense may seem to have been finally knocked into the Kelantan state authorities in charge of logging.
The Star reported today that the Kelantan state government has ordered an immediate halt to logging activities in the Balah forest reserve until further notice.
“State Forestry Department director Zahari Ibrahim said the decision was made on Monday morning.
“This decision was made to ensure peace among the orang asli and loggers who are faced with blockades put up by the orang asli,” he was reported as saying by The Star.
As much as we would like to pat the back of the Kelantan state government for actually halting the deforestation, one wonders if this is all a mere pause in their wayang kulit, before the loggers go full blow and take every tree down.
Let us look at the facts:
1. PAS popularity is down, way down and they cannot afford anything that will make their popularity worsen, which may even cost them Kelantan. The biggest floods of last year still has many of its victims living in makeshift tents and logging has been blamed as one of the main reasons for the massive flooding. Thus, this halting is damage control at its mildest but PAS is in a catch-22 situation as the loggers are holding a rifle to their back, and the Orang Asli together with the voters are barricaded at the front. On the sides are their Syariah Bill supporters and PAS members who wants to see them do something. And do not forget the victims of the big floods still waiting for help.
2. The logging was done with all the right licences through the right channels. The loggers must have and would surely have greased palms and paid under the table for these licences to be given out. If not, would anyone would have agreed to native customary land (NCR) and forest reserves to be cut down?
3. For years, ever since the same state government has run Kelantan, logging has been an issue, to an extent some of the hills have gone completely bald. During the last general election, this was one of the main issues highlighted by the opposition Umno in Kelantan by releasing CDs and pamphlets in how savage the logging industry is. What proof is there that something will actually be done to stop the logging on Orang Asli land?
4. Loggers are business people and they want profit. They would have calculated their profits in going in. Also they are not small towkays, they work in big gangs with ready hitmen, as can be seen int he videos when the Gua Musang Orang Asli confronted the loggers. Are we supposed to think that the PAS officers in the state government who would have promised the loggers big profits (and who would have profited themselves) are not afraid to cut back on their promises with these loggers?
5. If at all we were to believe that this act by the Kelantan state government to halt all logging activities on Balah forest reserve will return the NCR land to the rightful owners and leave our pristine virgin forests alone, we must be very naive indeed. For, these are the trees the loggers want and they would not settle for any other. It is business – they do not want any other product, for just like how the state government had promised them the licence to log in that place, the loggers would have promised their customers those very logs from those very trees. And by hook or crook, they will fulfil their pledges.
How long will the halt last, one can only count minutes before the timber comes crashing down and flatten the forests.