KUCHING , Nov 3 - The so-called “Big Six” timber firms said to control about 70 per cent of the five million hectares of concession areas in Sarawak are among the license holders being investigated by the Forestry Department here in the ongoing crackdown on illegal logging, Datuk Len Talif Salleh said today.
Len Talif, who is an assistant minister in the Chief Minister’s Office, said the state will not hesitate to revoke the firms’ licenses if there is evidence to prove that any of their contractors or managers are involved in illegal logging.
“We will take action against any timber companies, whether they are big or small,” the former state forestry department director said today after opening an International Heart of Borneo (HoB) Corridor Project Implementation Workshop on behalf of Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem.
He said the department and other relevant authorities are gathering evidence against all licence holders for illegal logging activities, and that a number of these licenses have already been revoked.
The “Big Six” timber firms have a combined concession areas of 3,724,675 hectares of forest land, with Samling Group of Companies holding the biggest concessions with 1,288,389ha, followed by RH Group of Companies (1,001,877ha), Shin Yang Group of Companies (500,904ha), Ta Ann Group of Companies (433,003ha), WTK Group of Companies (357,017ha) and KTS Group of Companies (144,485ha).
Len Talif said the forestry department has since May this year cancelled 80 out of 150 “occupation tickets”, which are also known as temporary licences issued for the purpose of clearing forested land for commercial agriculture.
“The holders were found have abused their licences by felling trees illegally in totally permanent area (TPAs) and National Parks,” he said.
Adenan, in his speech read by Len Talif, said in recent years, several issues concerning Sarawak have been highlighted by the media, international organisations, domestic and foreign non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) and civil societies.
“These include the allegation of massive deforestation and destruction of our forests, peat lands and wetlands as a result of logging and large scale expansion of oil palm cultivation in the state.
“There are also complaints on the reported abuse of native rights lodged by local NGOs and politicians to international bodies such as the United Nations Human Rights Commission,” Adenan said, adding that Sarawak is still has 84 per cent of its land mass under forests cover.