Awang Tengah Under Attack
KUCHING – State Second Minister of Planning and Resource Management Awang Tengah Ali Hassan came under heavy criticism from opposition politicians and activists for asking the Auditor General to amend its Annual Report for 2008.
The part of the report which the minister took exception to was the one citing Sarawak along with Kelantan, Pahang and Johor as having poor forest management that led to river pollution, erosion, landslides and destruction of flora and fauna.
The report which also mentioned illegal logging, logging in forest reserves or national parks and poor enforcement as some of the factors responsible has made the Awang Tengah very unhappy.
He then demanded that the report be corrected.
Act of intimidation
“This is an abuse of power and intimidation against the Auditor General. Reports against the minister should be made to the police and MACC,” he said, pointing out that the AG’s report was based on the principle of authority and accountability. The AG, he said, should be firm and should not be influenced by any quarter.
Padungan PKR state rep Dominique Ng accused Awang Tengah of trying to fiddle with the report.
The AG, he said, has certain procedures and guidelines to follow.
“Unless the Sarawak Government is saying that the reports are without any basis and are wrong, then the minister is questioning the credibility of the AG.
“The Sarawak Government should spend time and effort to find out the truth instead of being in a denial mode. Didn’t they also deny the Penan rape cases?
“They are only trying to cover up wrongdoing,” Ng stressed.
Harrison Ngau, chairman of Sarawak Indigenous Lawyers Alliance (SILA), said that Awang Tengah should not attempt to question let alone dictate how the AG which is an independent body carries out his work.
“If Awang Tengah wants the AG to change or amend its reports on the subject of forest management in Sarawak, other parties such as the native communities who live within or around the logging areas would also want their views to be included in the AG reports.
Why no EIA?
“I wish also to challenge Awang Tengah to furnish to the AG copies of all the areas in Sarawak which have been licensed out for logging since 1981 and to reveal the names of the companies granted the licences.
“He should disclose all these to the AG to enable him to also study and annex the maps and the names of the companies in the AG reports so that the public can also make their assessment and give their views to the AG concerning the management of our forest in Sarawak.
“If Awang Tengah is so confident that AG was wrong in concluding that the management of our forests is poor, he should therefore have the courage to disclose all these,” Harrison said.
Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) secretary-general Nicholas Mujah called on MACC to investigate Awang Tengah as there seems to be fishy elements on his call on the AG to amend his report.
“MACC must look into Awang Tengah’s motive,” he said.
Awang Tengah, now considered the most powerful minister after Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, demanded the Auditor General to make correction with regards to its reports on Sarawak’s sustainable forest management.According to the minister, it was misleading and incorrect.
Make necessary correction
“The Auditor General has to make the correction for fear that outsiders may use the report to tarnish the image of the state,” he said, adding that the final report was based on their (AG’s) own interpretation and not based on the reports, findings and comments from the Forest Department.
“If they want the interest and image of the state not to be affected internationally, they should make the necessary correction,” he said.
He said that the National Audit Department had actually requested for comments from the various departments before the AG made the final report.
“But in the final report they simply set aside whatever comments that we have gathered. The Forest Department was even not consulted when the final report was published.
“We do not question their competency on financial management such as how projects are implemented as that is their expertise. But to comment on certain things like sustainable forest management, I don’t think they have the expertise. They cannot come to the conclusion based on their own observation. For instance just because the water is muddy they blame it on illegal logging and pollution. You can’t make that kind of conclusion,” Awang Tengah had retorted.
“If they have the expertise to make the comment, it is okay, but I believe they don’t have it,” he said, pointing out that Sarawak had been practising sustainable forest management since the formation of the Forest Department and had been credited by international organisations, ITTO, and the United Nations.
"Agi Idup Agi Ngelaban"