Sabah state gov't to revamp Forestry Dept after MACC raids

Avila Geraldine

KOTA KINABALU: The state government will revamp the Sabah Forestry Department after several officers, including top officials, were being investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC) for alleged corrupt practices. Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal today said state Secretary Datuk Hashim Paijan will look into ensuring that the department will be headed by the right people. “I’ve to get new staff in to ensure we have fresh blood and fresh ideas with the right people leading the department. “It’s crucial for us as we need land premium and the revenue coming from the timber and forestry industry,” he told reporters, adding that a qualified individual is needed to manage the department. It was reported earlier that about 40 MACC officers conducted raids at various places in Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Tawau and Tambunan in connection to an alleged graft case involving the Forestry Department. To another question, Shafie said the state is open to appointing outsiders to lead the department, similar to the Sabah Water Department. “We have a choice. There are staffs that have been there for quite some time. So, we will wait and see,” he added. The chief minister noted that Sabah has lost billions of ringgit from timber revenue to private companies in the last 15 years, stressing that it is about time the state adopts “a new style of governing in managing its resources for the benefit of Sabah people”. During a press conference on the Warisan-led government’s first 100 days earlier, Shafie touch on efforts by the government to reform government-linked companies and bodies such as Yayasan Sabah. “The foundation has over a million hectares of land but the people don’t benefit from it. Therefore, we will reform agencies as such to ensure Sabah people can enjoy (revenue from) the resources,” he said. On the 20 per cent oil royalty promise made during 14th general election, Shafie said the government would push for the oil royalty be paid based on gross value to oil producing states. Though it would not be an easy task, he stressed that it has to be realised as demanded by the people in the state. “We’ve seen right after election that a promise like 20 per cent based on net profit has been mentioned by (Federal) leaders. “However, the demand is not in tandem with what the people of Sabah and Sarawak have asked for. “I’ve indicated this to the chairman of Petronas the stand of the Sabah government and state cabinet that the 20 per cent should be based on gross (profit),” he said. Speaking on governing the state in the first 100 days, Shafie said it has been a smooth ride with minor hiccups, stressing the new government is confident of progressing Sabah. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd