Malaysia – Sandakan: A 34-year-old local farmer in Tongod was sentenced to 45 days’ jail by the Sessions Court here on Thursday for endangering a forest reserve by fire.
Azmi Siniong of Kg Dewara, Tongod admitted before Judge Ummu Kalthom Abd Samad to leaving a fire burning near the Mangkawagu Forest Reserve in Tongod between March 19, 2016 and April 21 the same year.
He was jointly charged with his wife Limpah Bungin, 29, with the offence under Section 19(1) of the Forest Enactment 1968 which provides for a fine of up to RM100,000 or jail term of up to seven years or both on conviction.
No plea was taken from Limpah who was then given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) following an application by the prosecution for a DNAA to her.
In meting out the sentence to Azmi, Ummu held that the sentence was to give a lesson to him and as a warning to the public to be extra careful in the future.
She said damage had been done which not only caused the loss of treasures where 20.58 hectares of forest reserve were burnt but it also caused environmental pollution.
Earlier, pleading for leniency, Azmi who has five children, the youngest being just four months old, told the court that they were carrying out the traditional slash and burn practice for farming in the village but unfortunately the fire spread to the forest reserve.
Prosecuting officer Peter Maurice Lidadun from the Forestry Department informed the court that it was the first such case brought to the court to serve as a warning to the public to be careful when carrying out farming activity using fire especially during the dry season, where fire could easily spread and prove difficult to control.
In presenting the facts of the case, Peter said the Forestry Department personnel of Mukim Mangkawagu had on April 4, 2016 at 10am spotted smoke coming from a hill near Kg Soguon and found out that part of the burnt area was in the Sungai Mangkawagu Forest Reserve.
Investigations by the Forestry Department revealed that the fire had spread from an uncontrolled farm burning in the State land by Azmi and Limpah on March 19 causing 20.58 hectares of the Forest Reserve to be destroyed by fire.