State of devastation

19 Jan 2015 / 15:10 H.

PETALING JAYA: This photograph shows the devastation of the forests in Gua Musang caused by unbridled logging and land clearing, that most certainly contributed to the serious flooding in the state.
The aerial shots taken by theSun photographer Kamariduan Mohd Nor from a helicopter on Jan 15 show vast areas of forests that have been cleared, leaving raw angry red patches of land.
Serious flooding in these areas had caused several thousand orang asli of the Temiar tribe in the jungle fringes of Kuala Betis to be cut off without aid for about three months.
Last week, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim cited illegal logging and land-clearing activities in Gua Musang as one of the causes of the massive flooding in Kelantan.
Shahidan, who claimed he had "solid proof" of such activities, said much of the illegal land-clearing was taking place in the "black areas" which had been undisturbed since the days of the Malayan Emergency, but was being cleared by certain quarters for some time now.
"I have information on who are doing all this. Among them are the big businessmen from neighbouring countries. I hope there is a law to take them to court," Shahidan, who is also National Security Council (MKN) chairman, was quoted as saying after chairing a post-flood meeting with state government agencies on Jan 12.
Shahidan said they were been given the temporary occupancy licence (TOL) to clear land but their land-clearing activities had gone beyond the permitted areas.
"The government takes the issue of logging in Marang (Terengganu), Jerantut and Cameron Highlands (Pahang) and Gua Musang (Kelantan) seriously," said Shahidan, who proposed that all state governments stop logging for 10 years as a concerted effort to prevent flooding.
Illegal logging has been touted to be one of the main reasons for serious flooding in the country, the latest of which claimed at least 21 lives and displaced more than 200,000 people in Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Perak.
The Sultan of Pahang had particularly been incensed with illegal land clearing in the Cameron Highlands which had been badly hit by floods over the last few years and unleashed his wrath when he visited flood-stricken areas recently.
"Illegal farmers are responsible .... They are to blame!" Sultan Ahmad Shah was quoted as saying on Nov 20 last year, adding that he was fed up with such illegal activities and called on the authorities to take action against those involved.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Chief Commissioner Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed said today that all reports on illegal logging activities nationwide are investigated and appropriate actions are taken.
"We investigate all reports and investigations are carried out from time to time in all states which have reports on illegal loggings," he said, adding that MACC has several methods of investigating illegal logging.
"If the evidence is inadequate, we will study and revise the procedures used. If there is a need to amend them, we will suggest to the state government that a policy change be made," he was quoted by Bernama as saying when visiting the Kelantan MACC Complex.
On checking abuses in the process of giving aid to the flood victims, Abu Kassim said any keen quarter or individual can help MACC by becoming volunteers to channel information.
"There are not many of us (in MACC) so we need volunteers. So, if there are volunteers who want help MACC, they can register themselves and we will screen and brief them.
"A condition is that they cannot declare they are from MACC, as they can only act as informers and not reveal their identities to the public," he said, adding that MACC had received 45 calls from the public on issues related to floods nationwide after the Flood Fund Management Integrity Committee was set up recently.

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