Sarawak on the Borneo Island has been known all over the world for its lush, virgin tropical rainforests, one of the three largest undisturbed rainforest blocks remaining worldwide. But the fate of it remaining virgin will be decided by the leader and lawmakers from their respective administrative states, as well as the conglomerate that dictates the global timber industry, such as the lush green group, the three goat company, the three zero company, and the company of the rising sun.

Mass production of sawn timbers from illegal logs
Stacks of sawn timbers in a sawmill in Sarawak, scattered in front are the illegal logs.

At the height of the war of words between the duo, Taib accused Rahman of giving away a whopping 1.25 million hectares of logging concessions worth RM22.5 billion to his family and cronies in his 11 years at the helm.

But having terminated the concessions disbursed by his uncle, Taib himself awarded an even bigger portion of the state’s resources to his own family and his set of cronies – 1.6 million hectares in total, or about the size of 26 Singapores. –

Across the border in Malaysian Borneo, the state of Sarawak has been controlled for 27 years by Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, whose administration is widely regarded as dictatorial and corrupt. – Borneo’s Moment of Truth by National Geographic

The “state-owned”, which simply means owned by the Chief Minister, too – Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC) is the organization that takes charge of every little thing that involves timber and wood produced in Sarawak. Truly, Sarawak pride itself in having one of the world’s most complete grading system that even the European timber industry is lacking. The grading process covers quality control and making sure that the quality meets the stringent standards and also the requirements of the customers.

Timber exporters were required to submit by hand, the grading and summary report produced by timber graders, and the payment of RM1/cubic meter “development” fee to obtain a certificate from the local STIDC office before the timber can be exported. Just a year ago, STIDC took the initiative to go online, in an effort to save time and to keep track of the timber production/export statistics. Timber graders representing the timber exporter can now submit and apply for a grading certificate through their online forms.

Illegal logs
Untagged illegal logs. Illegal logging is a viable source of income for gangsters.

But STIDC realized a problem with this sytem. There’s no more timber graders handing in the report to their offices state-wide, and those slackers who had been sitting in the offices doing simple work such as printing certificates, sending e-mails, reading newspapers, browsing lelong, surfing youtube, would have to be fired. Who’s gonna hand feed the slackers? So, STIDC decided to seek a work-around for that perfect system. Their work-around? You have to submit the application online, print the pending certificate out, and submit the application by hand into the STIDC office! What a great way to save time! My ass. Talk about redundancy, this will be a perfect example.

When you pay your TM bills online, do you print out the statement online after the payment and submit the payment receipt to your nearest TM Clicks before the bill can be clarified as paid? In STIDC’s case, YES! You have to do that, or else they don’t give a fuck of whether you’ve paid or not!

Legal logs tagging
Taggings on a legal log.

It is known that the slackers receive a customary “tip” of 50-70 cents per cubic meter of timber stated on the application. That’s why STIDC had to keep the exporters walking into their offices, or they’ll lose the “tip” and their job as well.

In West Malaysia, the timber industry is managed and monitored under the Malaysia Timber Industry Board, and it once attempted to take charge of the timber industry here in Sarawak, too. But you would’ve guessed it, someone said no. If the industry were to go under MTIB’s authority, someone would lose the power to allocate concession to his cronies and miss out on a lot of money.

Legal logs
Legal logs extracted from NCR land concessions allocated for oil palm plantations purpose.

Despite a prime minister’s directive banning conversion of forest reserves for oil palm plantations, the Malaysian state of Sarawak will continue to open up forest land for oil palm plantations, reports the New Straits Times.

Speaking to the press Saturday, Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said that the move will not go against the prime minister’s directive because “it did not apply to the state,” according to New Straits Times. Taib said the land targeted for new plantations “were not permanent forest reserves but land targeted for agriculture since the 1950s.” – Mongabay

Now, how can a legislation made in the 1950s on the rainforest could still be applied today, without a proper review? Global warming wasn’t even an issue back in the 50s. The term “it did not apply to the state” is really, very unconstructive, and it just showed the extent of the split and break-down of a unified administrative control in between Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak.

In awarding the concessions to the big palm oil corporates, he disregarded the native customary rights (NCR) lands of his own people in favor of the monetary gains he’s going to achieve.

What Rainforest? Wake up and Smell the Palm Oil! A film by Hilary Chiew and Chi Too on Sarawak’s NCR land issue with the big palm oil corporates.

He added that orangutans were “safe” in the state due to the establishment of a sanctuary. He said the state had also set up a 30,000 hectare (75,000 acre) reservation for the Penan and other indigenous nomadic tribes that live in the rainforest.

“There are no reasons for us not to continue opening up more land,” he said.

Taib’s comments shortly after a month-long protest by the indigenous Kenyah over illegal logging on their communal lands. The blockade of logging roads was broken up by Malaysian police earlier this month.

A few years later, when the palm fruits grow, and when the harsh reality of environmental and financial loss of massive illegal logging kicks in, he said these…

Sarawak will reward informants of illegal logging. Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud wants a fund to be set next year.

“The move will encourage villagers, especially those living in and near forest areas, to report to the authorities of any intrusion into state forests.

“Our timber resources must be protected at all cost,” said Taib, who is also Sarawak Forestry Corporation Chairman.

He called on corporation officers to work closely with the Penans and other tribes to be guardians of the forests. “(But) we have to identify who are our friends and our enemies (among them). the corporation should also upgrade its log tracking system to separate the illegally sourced logs from the ones harvested with permission.” –

Can you see the stark contrary on how he handle the Penans and their land? On one ocassion, the natives were forcefully stripped the rights of their native land, without prior negotiations and legal formalities, and after a few years, he’s calling the same bunch of people to protect their forest from being stolen. It’s cruel for the Penans tribe and they have to endure such treatment from an inconsiderate leader.

So what more can he complain about illegal logging, when he himself is illegally cashing in on the rich resources that the state has to offer?

Further Readings
Borneo’s Moment of Truth
What Taib Mahmud can’t buy
Sarawak to continue logging forests for oil palm plantations
What Rainforest?
Bruno Manser Fonds
Greening the Earth in Borneo, Malaysian style