Friday, December 21, 2012

West tends to look at Sarawak through spectacles of NGOs

Obviously, the Western world, out of sheer ignorance and unparalleled arrogance, is looking at Sarawak through the spectacles of NGOs that do not even understand tropical forests and the principle and practices of sustainable management of the resources.

They are prepared to belittle the endorsement by ITTO that Sarawak has been putting into practice the sustainable management of resources from the forests. The International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) is a respected body of experts on tropical timber in development and conservation. 

The State Government took the initiative to invite them to come to Sarawak to study and make local forest inventory and recommendations on how forests should be exploited professionally.  It is the view of the State government then and now that the exploitation of resources from the forests must be environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable.

The NGOs started to be very active campaigning against the logging activities, which they perceived to be massive deforestation of jungles of Sarawak. For example, a Swiss activist imposed himself as the savior of Penans, who according to him represented nearly half of the population of Sarawak; how wrong he was.

The life that Bruno Manser, the pariah and self-proclaimed champion of the Penan community want to preserve.
The State government, with the co-operation of the Federal Secretary’s office in Sarawak recently carried out a census from April to October 2012, about six months, to collect a data to determine the actual population on the Penan community.   

The format being used for the census of the Penans was the same as the standard one being used for the general census of the population that entails body counts with primary objective to determine the actual size of the community, identity the poor members and size of each poor family. 

The initial information received by offices of Residents reveals the total population of the Penan community in Sarawak is 17,784.  They stay in 135 settlements in districts of Marudi, Miri, Limbang, Belaga and Bintulu.

The census reveals that only 275 of them from 54 families, who represent 1.55% of the community still lead a nomadic way of life. Out of the total, 247 from 49 families are found in Ulu Sungei Tutoh  area  and 28 from five families are living in Ulu  Sungei Limbang  area.

Bruno Manser, seen locally as a pariah or Mat Salleh sesat, (weird white man),   forged his talents in order to make himself popular in his so-called campaign to protect Sarawak forests and its inhabitants. Initially, the local people thought his efforts were not serious. They viewed his activities as efforts of a young man, who tried to build himself up. 

In this respect, the Natural Resources and Environment Board should not be defensive in trying to explain the true situation in Sarawak.  Generally, the people should be proud of the fact that Sarawak had never done anything on environment protection in particular out of fear of NGOs.  More importantly, Sarawak has been able to protect the environment that it inherited from the old administration; Sarawak can maintain the situation.

The following report is by the courtesy of Anak Sarawak of Sarawak Tribune:  There were already some considerations to conserve the unique environment of Sarawak since the early days of the White Rajah, who could attract a lot of nature lovers to come to the State; most of his personal friends were nature lovers and naturalists. Obviously, the White Rajah got some ideas from his friends how to protect the natural and charming characteristics of Sarawak.

The Statement of Forest Policy, which was approved by Governor-in-Council in 1954, is an excellent, practical and visionary testimony to this. It includes all aspects of environment and soil conservation as far back as 1954. It includes all aspects of environment and soil conservation, watersheds management and sustainable development of forest resources for the prosperity of the Rakyat and the State.

The State Government remains committed to the implementation of the policy and conform to sustainable forest management practices as advocated by it. The successive post-Merdeka State governments find the policy to be relevant and sound in driving in the development of the forestry sector. It is not being done due to the pressure from NGOs, mainly foreign NGOs. 

Chief Minister, Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud recalls as a Cabinet Minister in 1966, he was given the task and responsibility by the late Dato Tawi Sli, then the second Chief Minister of Sarawak, to look after the orderly development of the forests.

Then Sarawak had just started to issue licenses to extract timber from hill forests.  Prior to that, the State government had been issuing licenses to extract timber from swamp or peat soil areas only; the State government had not issued many licenses to log hill timber.

The life of a young Penan mother that Bruno Manser Fonds want to preserve as human museum

The first thing he did, which he would normally do upon taking new cabinet appointments, was to take time to reflect over the whole picture of the forestry development in the State.

He observed that there were already some considerations for Sarawak to conserve the environment to ensure it would continue to have unique features in the conservation of the environment.  To him, Sarawak since the era of the White Rajah, days had been able to attract a lot of the nature lovers. 

Pehin Sri Abdul Taib (then Abdul Taib Mahmud) asked himself what he could do to protect the nature of Sarawak. He decided that he could start with the protection of the environment and try to supervise the wilderness, which represented 90% of Sarawak’s surface.

Of course, the biggest of this were the forests areas. Even at that time, the State government had already thought of allocating about 60% of the surface area of Sarawak for the purpose of permanent forests.  Then most countries in South East Asia and those in other parts of the world had already ended up losing a lot of their forests areas due to improper exploitation of the resources.  

He held the view that forests in Sarawak must be harvested in a very professional way so as to save them.  He asked the Federal government to see whether Sarawak could get a team from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) to advise on how to do the most systematic way of harvesting the resources

However, the requirement of FAO was for the State government to freeze issuance of timber licenses during the period of the investigations. Abdul Taib agreed to do so in 1967 after consulting his Cabinet colleagues. But overnight he received a lot of complaints from politicians as well as businessmen. 

Ultimately, to save the politics of the day for the Alliance, Abdul Taib took the blame and resigned from his post. He declared that he was responsible for the measures to freeze issues of forest licenses during the period of investigations by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)

Then there were no NGOs to criticize the state government but a person like him could see that Sarawak needed perpetual yield policy that would give a circle of 50 years to allow trees to grow.  A distinctive planning had to be carried out to allow a tree to grow for a period of 50 years in order to ensure perpetual revenue from the forests.

The third Chief Minister, Dato Abdul Rahman Yaakub ( now Tun Abdul Rahman Ya’akub), who assumed office on July 7, 1970, decided to implement the  sustainable management policy, recommended by Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in the development of the forestry sector.

Pehin Sri Abdul Taib, as the fourth Chief Minister went to Cout D’voure in Africa to attend the meeting of International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO). He took the opportunity to invite ITTO to see how it could help Sarawak to adopt the sustainable management in the development of the forestry sector.

ITTO could agree with the way that Sarawak had planned the forestry policy and also agreed with yearly quota of 9.25 million cubic feet of timber from the forests so as to make the yields to be perpetual.

Sarawak, in spite of the humble resources in terms of environmental quality management, has been able to do very well in environment conservation.  The NREB has been able to implement policies, which do not adequately cover the core mission of industries as they relate to Industrial Act, to ensure the process of industrialization must conform to the local standard of quality control.

The State government, since 1994, has been able to cover lots of responsibilities that are needed to tighten the situation of environmental protection.  It has introduced a lot of environmental systems to regulate and manage environmental issues.  

It has successfully developed one integrated waste management park at Mambong, the centralized waste treatment system phase one for Kuching city, the biogas treatment plant, centralized natural parks areas at Pasir Putih Samarahan division, the introduction of usage of higher cyclic facilities at Matang and the development of the sanitary landfills in Bintulu and Miri. 

Sarawak Monitor
December 21, 2012