Government To Come Down Hard On Illegal Loggers
JOHOR BAHARU, March 21 (Bernama) - Illegal loggers beware! The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry is getting more aggressive in its war against illegal logging in the country.
And, it is to be armed with tougher legislation by way of an amendment to the National Forestry Act 1984, which seeks prove of the source of suspected illegal timber, doubles the penalty to RM1 million, and increases the minimum mandatory jail sentence from one year to five years.
"We hope that with the more deterrent provisions in the Forestry Act, we would be able to decrease illegal logging which continuously degrades our forests," said Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas.
He spoke to reporters after the 40th World Forestry Day celebration and the launch of the national-level International Forestry Year 2011 by Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman at Taman Wilayah Nusajaya, here, Monday.
Uggah said that firstly, the ministry was finalising the amendment to the act, which it hoped to settle by this year.
The main selling point of the amendment was a strict liability provision which put the burden of proof on the offenders, he said.
"This means that any individual caught with illegally obtained timber would have to prove the source of the commodity," he said, adding that proving the source of stolen timber had been the ministry's biggest problem so far.
Uggah said the amendment also provided for an increase in the fine, doubling it to RM1 million.
He also said that the minimum mandatory jail sentence would be increased from one year to five years, with the maximum term retained at 20 years.
The amendment to the act is in line with the government's effort to achieve four million hectares of a contiguous block of forest to make up the Central Forest Spine under the National Tiger Action Plan 2008-2020.
The objective of the action plan is to double the population of the Malayan Tiger from what is believed to be 500 at the moment to 1,000 by 2020.
Apart from that, the ministry would also strengthen its enforcement programmes, said Uggah.
He also said that 56 individuals were prosecuted for illegal logging in 2008 and were fined a total of RM4.2 million while 36 individuals were prosecuted in 2009 and paid RM1.3 million in fines.