(1 January 2002) BM

Kota Kinabalu: Former Chief Minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee yesterday claimed that the comment by the Chief Minister about the FMU was contradictory to his answer to a question by the Party Bersatu Sabah President in the State Legislative Assembly on Nov 7, 2001.

The Chief Minister, through his Assistant Minister, had replied that:
"There are 15 (not 17) FMU holders. Eleven of these FMUS are active, with some already received approval of Forest Management Plan (FMP). Three FMP are under preparation. Only one is inactive and 100,000 ha are the most viable size for forest investment."

"The current policy is the outcome of the Cabinet Committee on Forestry (chaired by Datuk Pandikar Amin Hj Mulia) formed in 1994.

"The Policy was approved when Datuk Sri Panglima Salleh Tun Said was Chief Minister and implemented during the term of Datuk Yong Teck Lee and Tan Sri Bernard G. Dompok.

"The Policy took into consideration the Yayasan Sabah (one million hectares), and the Sabah Forest Industries concessions and the KTS (Sarawak) FMU approved during the PBS-era," Yong said in a statement issued yesterday.

Yong was commenting on statement by Datuk Chong Kah Kiat two days ago.

"After terminating several lop-sided agreements involving local government authorities, the Sabah government has now turned its attention to unfavourable agreements between the State government and private organisations under the Forest Management Unit (FMU) programme," Chong was quoted by Bernama as saying.

Yesterday, Yong said: "The 10 Sustainable Forest Management Licenses Agreements (SFMLAs) (including Yayasan Sabah) of 1997 are in compliance with International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) principles. They are very much in favour of the State Government, even to the extent that the Federal Primary Industries Minister (Dato' Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yeik) had complained that the SFMLAs are not commercially viable for the companies.

"If any of the licenses is in breach of the agreements, then there can be a termination of the agreements, forfeiture of the RM5 million bond and the whole FMU reverts to the State Government. In other words, the State Government is well protected.

"In fact, the SFMLAs had replaced several of the Special Licences to extract timber issued in the 1980s to private companies without sustainable forest management practices. If not for the SFMLAs, these privileged companies would have been allowed to simply take out all the logs ever since the 1980s until 2005 and 2011.

"I hope the proposed review of Sustainable Forest Management Licence Agreements is not an excuse to dismantle the sustainable management framework in order to bring back cluster-bombing log extraction licences of past temptations.

"Without SFMs, the entire commercial forests become vulnerable to clear-fell practices, as shown in the Benta Wawasan (Kalabakan) area in 2000 which the State Government has not yet fully explained the environmental impact and policy framework.

"Since the Chief Minister has revealed that agricultural crops will be allowed in forest reserves, the State Government has to be careful so that agricultural crops within FMUs do not become "back door degazetting of forest reserves."

"And we hope that this review of FMUs is not a distraction from other important issues of the economy, illegal immigrants and national unity."


Datuk Yong Teck Lee
Member of Parliament for P150 Gaya / State Assemblyman for N13 Likas






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