Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How has challenged the state Forest Department to open its books on the approval and issuance of Occupation Tickets (OT) for scrutiny on whether there was compliance with the department’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).
See, who is state PKR vice- chairman, said this was to show that the state Forest Department had nothing to hide in safeguarding and conserving the state’s valuable but depleting timber resources and the environment.
“I am not only disappointed, but appalled by the (state Forest) Department’s shifty and evasive reply,” he said yesterday.
The state Forest Department, in its statement on Wednesday, described See’s allegation that the number of OT licences it issued had increased by three fold as “totally wrong and misleading”. Additionally, the state Forest Department claimed that See had 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 remained valid in those particular years.
The department also reiterated that to date, only 42 OT licences were valid for Native Customary Rights (NCR) land compared to 100 licences last year, adding: “Therefore, this clearly shows a reduction in numbers. For information, only 12 new OT licences were issued this year.”
See said it was the joint statement given by the permanent secretary of Resource Planning and Environment Ministry Datu Sudarsono Osman and the director of Forests, Sapuan Ahmad on Monday that disclosed that 251 OTs were issued after Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem assumed the office of the Chief Minister and the Minister of Resource Planning and Environment.
“And the emphasis of my statement was to call for an inquiry and verification into their SOP compliance, to ensure that his (Adenan’s) ministerial directives were not flouted.”
See said he gave due acknowledgement to the fact that 67 of the OTs issued in 2014 had expired and or were terminated in 2015 as revealed by the state Forest Department, similarly the 102 OTs being issued in 2015 and 42 this year.
“The question remains: Whether there is SOP compliance in the issuance of the OTs, or were there flouting of the Chief Minister’s good directives to combat illegal logging and to safeguard and conserve our forest resources and environment.
“It is not an issue that there are only 42 OTs current and operational.”
In view of the state Forest Department’s strong and serious accusation made against him, See was now giving the department 24 hours to revisit the issuance of the OT licence for more than 4,000 hectares of land within the Spali Land District in Kanowit, and make a public statement to affirm that the issuance of that particular OT was in accordance with the laws, rules, regulations and the SOP, and that it was not issued in defiance or evading the Chief Minister’s clear directives.
“As it concerns the Chief Minister’s clear directives over land and forest resources which are primarily state matters, I am hopeful that the state is capable of handling any wrongdoing, misfeasance and/or breach of fiduciary duties of the officials ourselves. But I will not hesitate to advise the parties to forward their complaints and evidence to the relevant authorities for investigation and actions.”
In responding to the statement made by Assistant Minister of Environment Datu Len Talif Salleh on Wednesday that there was no necessity for an independent inquiry to conduct an investigation into the SOP compliance by the state Forest Department, See said that the experienced former state director of forests should be objective with the matter and be the first to offer assistance to look into the SOP compliance when the allegation of flouting of ministerial directives was first brought out.
“With his wealth of experience and knowledge as the former state director of forests, not least being the architect in preparing the five-volume SOP, the honourable assistant minister will be able to assist in the investigation, to pin-point the weaknesses in the SOP and improve on it.”
Being fellow members of the State Legislative Assembly and sharing the same concerns for the safeguard and conservation of the environment and natural resources, See said he would be most happy to work with Len Talif to investigate this matter and make suggestions to improve on the SOP and legislatures to “better protect and conserve our forest, timber resources and environment”.
“Surely, the Chief Minister and the state government are serious with the administrative integrity and good governance that they propagated. In view of the fact that our state’s policies on environment, forest and timber resource management are constantly under intense international scrutiny and criticism, I strongly urge that this matter be dealt with immediately.”
Source : Jonathan Chia@The Borneo Post Online