KUALA LUMPUR: Those guilty of unlawful possession of forest produce, including carrying out illegal logging, may soon have to pay a fine tenfold the current amount.
Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Datuk Dr A. Xavier Jayakumar (pix) said the government was currently mulling a heavier penalty for such offences to deter irresponsible individuals from conducting their illegal activities.
He said if all goes well, a bill to amend the National Forestry Act 1984, that would see the increased punishments, would be tabled in Parliament by next year.
“Individuals without license or permits who take any forest produce from a permanent reserved forest or state land currently only have to pay a fine between RM100,000 and RM500,000. We intend to increase the maximum fine to RM5 million.
“We are also looking at increasing the minimum jail term from one year to five years,” he told a press conference after attending the 76th National Land Council Meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, here, today.
Xavier said another proposed amendment was to increase the punishment for illegal trespassing, with the fine to be increased from RM10,000 to RM30,000 and prison term from three years to five years.
He said the ministry has discussed the matter with the states and that the National Land Council has also agreed for the amendments to be made to the act.
“We want to strengthen several provisions and impose higher fines for those who break the law,” he said.
Xavier also urged both Sabah and Sarawak to similarly amend their respective forestry laws to introduce a heftier punishment, as the federal act does not apply to the two states.
“They have their own acts. But they can follow our proposal and also amend their acts at their respective state assemblies,” he said.
Various quarters have previously urged the government to increase the punishment for illegal loggers, claiming the current fine and prison term was a pittance for them as they could easily make millions of ringgit from their activities.