Corrupt Forestry officials Aid and Abet illegal Logging
For kickbacks some forestry officials are willing to turn a blind eye to illegal logging. Photo Credit: Flickr
Forestry officials are our eyes in forests. They are tasked with keeping an eye on logging to ensure that no illegal activity takes places in the country’s much-depleted forests. But what happens when the eyes of these officials are willfully blind to such logging? What happens is this: loggers can continue to decimate forests with impunity.
Endemic corruption continues to bedevil affairs in Malaysia, and forestry is no different. In exchange of kickbacks from loggers, some forestry officials are willing to turn a blind eye to their activities, thereby helping them denude even more of our remaining forests of valuable trees. Now and again, however, corrupt officials do receive their just deserts.
One such corrupt official in Kuantan was recently sentence to three months in prison and a fine of RM15,000 after the 33-year-old man pleaded guilty to five charges of accepting bribes from a logging company over a period of several months starting in July 2016. The kickbacks amounted to RM340,000, a veritable fortune, and in return the Pahang Forestry Department official facilitated the logging company in cutting down trees illegally in two local forest reserves.
The culpable forestry official was let off lightly. Section 165 of the Penal Code would have allowed for a prison term of up to two years. Yet his sentencing may, it is hoped, serve as a deterrent to other corrupt officials in Pahang and elsewhere. Make no mistake: such willful turning of a blind eye in return for cash or other benefits is a very serious matter. “The accused’s act of greed has also affected the environment and the natural resources of the area involved, and even cash amounting to RM47,000 was also found in the office during the raid on Sept 11,” stressed Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission deputy public prosecutor Mohamad Fadhly Mohd Zamry.
The commission is keeping a close eye on some officials elsewhere as well, including Kelantan. MACC’s director in Kelantan, Moh Shamsuddin Yusof, posits that illegal loggers might well try to bribe Forestry rangers at an inspection station. “It is possible that timber-laden lorries will pass through the station regularly,” he was quoted as saying. “Most of these illegal timber operators operate in Gua Musang. Despite having only six investigation officers, we believe we can curb this menace.”
Curb this menace of endemic corruption we indeed must. Failing to do so would exacerbate the threat to the country’s remaining forests.