Illegal timber transported by boat, Malaysia

Malaysia minister turning a new leaf on forest protection?

Last week, Adenan Satem, newly appointed Chief Minister of Sarawak, held a briefing session in London on his first official overseas trip.

At his invitation, NGOs gathered at the Malaysian High Commission to discuss Sarawak’s new Forests Pledge, a environmental policy halting timber concessions and new plantations.

Anden’s stance on the environment was well received and thankfully marks a sharp departure from that of his predecessor, General Taib, who notoriously became rich during his 33-year tenure from looting Sarawak’s natural resources.

Saving what remains of these forests is not merely a matter for conservationists – preserving Borneo’s forests requires a proactive approach from law enforcement and criminal justice entities, investigating and prosecuting those profiting from this lucrative trade.

News that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has not only been instructed to address forest crimes but has subsequently rumbled a timber network, freezing corporate and personal assets equivalent to roughly £99 million in one operation, inspires confidence in the outlook of the new administration. Ordering anti-corruption and money-laundering agencies to investigate crimes in the natural resources sector is absolutely critical to preserving the remaining forests.

In light of this new approach we are cautiously optimistic but, as General Taib demonstrated, timber corruption is not isolated to forest officers in national parks.

If this progressive approach is to be successful, timber investigations need to extend to the offices where, historically, palms have been well greased.