The State Forest Department yesterday described the allegation by Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How that the number of Occupational Ticket (OT) licences it issued has increased by three fold as “totally wrong and misleading”.
In a statement released yesterday the department claimed that See has apparently or deliberately misinterpreted the figure given in his media statement.
The department explained that the total number of 109, 100 and 42 OT licences issued in 2014, 2015 and 2016 respectively were in fact accumulative total number of licences that remain valid in those particular years.
It also reiterated that to date only 42 OT licences are valid for NCR land compared to 100 licences last year.
“Therefore this clearly shows a reduction in numbers. For information, only 12 new OT licences were issued this year,” the statement added in reacting to an article published in The Borneo Post on Wednesday entitled ‘See wants probe on timber licences’.
During the department’s press conference on Monday (Dec 5), permanent secretary of Ministry of Resource Planning and Environment Datu Sudarsono Osman and director of Forests Sapuan Ahmad explained on the objective and necessity of issuing OT Licence and LA on land that has been approved for development.
Under Section 40(2) of Forests Ordinance, 2015 the Director of Forests has powers to issue a licence for a period not exceeding one year except with the written approval of the Minister.
“The Forest Department is committed to combat illegal logging activities in the State. We are fully aware that short term licences can be abused and for this reason applicants will be scrutinised to ensure they have no adverse record. Since the Chief Minister’s directive to eliminate illegal logging, the procedure to process new application for short term licence has been enhanced.”
Once the OT Licence is approved and prior to harvesting operation, the Licensee has to appoint the contractor and submit to the Department for approval. The approval process of the contractor included screening through MACC’s eSTK (Sistem Tapisan Keutuhan) before registration.
During harvesting operation, Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) has been directed to be more vigilant to ensure strict compliance with the laws, term and condition of the licence.
“The number of valid OT Licences and LAs (Letters of Authority) is dynamic. The accumulative total for each year will vary as there will be licences expiring and new ones issued,” the department said.
On Tuesday See said he believed lack of effective measures has led to state losing timber resources and revenues and called for a probe on issuing of timber licences.
See said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem should call for an independent inquiry on the standard operating procedure (SOP) compliance of 251 OT licences and LAs which were issued since he assumed the office of Chief Minister and Minister of Resource Planning and Environment.
He alleged the dearth of a mechanism to check the abuse of authority and power to issue timber licenses together with the failure to take action against those who had flouted the laws and breached their fiduciary duties as civil servants and community leaders were causing the state to lose its valuable timber resources and revenues.
“It appears that some senior officers in the Ministry have been abusing their authority and power to issue timber licenses (in OTs and LAs) without the knowledge of the ministers, in defiance of the ministerial directives or evading and sidestepping the directives,” See told a press conference here .
See, who is state PKR vice chairman, was commenting on the admission by Sudarsono during a press conference on Monday that there were still weaknesses in the present SOP of the state Forest Department in issuing short term tree felling licenses such as OT licences and LAs, agreeing that the SOP could be further improved to prevent abuses.
The press conference held by Sudarsono and Sapuan Ahmad on Monday (Dec 5), was to clarify on The Borneo Post front page story entitled “Directive on timber licenses flouted?” on thesundaypost which highlighted the recent protest against a license for a company to clear a piece of NCR land in Ulu Ngemah and also questioned serious loopholes in the system that made a mockery tof he Chief Minister’s declaration in 2014 that no more timber licenses would be issued.
Source : Churchill Edward@The Borneo Post Online