Source:The Star (Malaysia), Monday February 23, 2004
The trade in illegal logs must be treated as an international crime and Indonesia wants Malaysia to help her fight this scourge in the Asean spirit of neighbourliness. Its Environment Minister Nabiel Makarim said the supply and demand factors in this trade must be tackled simultaneously to achieve the desired results. ?We are doing our best to stop illegal logging. At the moment we have 48 court cases (of illegal logging). But our efforts become difficult because the demand has not been curbed. Let´s not hide things. Yes, we have our weaknesses but that is no reason for other countries to do what they like. We want Malaysia to be on our side, he told a press conference at the sideline of the COP7 of the Convention on Biological Diversity ministerial meeting. Over the past week, Malaysia had come under fire for laundering Indonesian logs in the international market, particularly the high valued hardwood, ramin, when Indonesia had imposed a ban on all timber species since October 2001. The Environmental Investigation Agency and its Indonesian counterpart Telapak released a report on Feb 4 detailing the smuggling of Indonesian ramin by Malaysian traders through the coastal ports of Muar, Batu Pahat and Malacca. Recently a smuggling syndicate operating from the Pasir Gudang port in Johor was uncovered. Nabiel said the ministry is checking and destroying logging equipment on site and has even mobilised local communities to monitor logging activities. Deforestation in Indonesia is said to have reached crisis proportions; it has lost nearly 70% of its forest cover and 80% of Indonesian logs are believed to come from illegal sources. He added that the illegal logs issue has escalated to the current level where the European Union is considering a ban on timber that is suspect, and this will affect both Malaysia and Indonesia. ?We are in the same basket, we must start discussions, he said, adding that an informal bilateral meeting will be convened on March 15 in Kuala Lumpur with the Science, Technology and Environment Ministry as well as the Primary Industries Ministry. He said illegal extraction of ramin which grows in the peat swamp forests should be of concern to Malaysia as it contributes to forest fires and brings about the haze.