Elephant deaths: Sabah DAP leader wants MACC to also investigate

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Kota Kinabalu MP Chan Foong Hin claims a senior Yayasan Sabah management staff member was sacked when she reported the mysterious deaths of 14 elephants in timber concession area in 2013.

Kota Kinabalu MP Chan Foong Hin says no action taken on MACC report he made in 2014.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah DAP secretary Chan Foong Hin has urged the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to look into possible graft involving the recent deaths of the six Bornean pygmy elephants in the state.

The Kota Kinabalu MP said this was not the first time large numbers of elephants had been found dead in Sabah’s thick forests.

He said he had lodged a MACC report over an alleged cover-up after learning a Yayasan Sabah (YS) management staff was sacked when she reported the mysterious deaths of 14 elephants in the foundation’s timber concession area in 2013.

“This is not a new issue. I have raised this during my term as a state assemblyman, not only through press statements and state assembly debates, but also by lodging a MACC report in 2014.”

Chan, who is the former representative for Sri Tanjong, which is part of the Tawau federal constituency, lamented that all his efforts were in vain.

He claimed that in February 2013, Yayasan Sabah and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Rakyat Berjaya Sdn Bhd (RBJ), which manages its forest concession area, received a comprehensive report from the foundation’s environmental manager, Masturah Sulaiman.

“She reported that 14 elephants were found dead in suspicious circumstances at the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve, which is within the Yayasan Sabah timber concession area.”

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He alleged that instead of investigating the matter, YS and RBJ removed Masturah from her post and further claimed the Forestry Department never followed up on the report.

“Something is really wrong. What have they to hide? Instead of victimising the whistleblower, I urge YS, RBJ and the forestry director to come clean on this matter.

“I demand a thorough investigation into this,” Chan said.

He was commenting on the order issued to the state wildlife authorities by Shafie Apdal, who was sworn in as chief minister on May 12, to probe the deaths of six Bornean pygmy elephants in the state in recent weeks and find immediate solutions.

Chan said he hoped Shafie would identify the root problems and find solutions.

Meanwhile, newly-installed Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Christina Liew vowed to get to the bottom of the deaths of the elephants.

For a start, the ministry intends to appoint more rangers and place them in plantations to help keep an eye on elephant herds.

“We will also engage consultants who are experts in the field to conduct research and give us a report on the best way to handle these elephants.”

She said many do not have the right sentiments about protecting this endangered species because the elephants have been blamed for destroying crops in the past.

Liew, who is also the deputy chief minister, said the old way of doing things like engaging oil palm plantation owners through meetings has clearly proven to be unsuccessful.

She said plantation owners and workers must be taught that elephants are protected and cannot be killed just because they destroyed crops.

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“The number of elephants killed has increased since the 1990s and it is getting worse now. We still do not know exactly who are responsible and the main cause.”

Liew said the ministry will reactivate the reward system, with witnesses given rewards for any information on those responsible for the killings.

The carcasses of the six endangered Bornean pygmy elephants were discovered in plantations in the east coast of Sabah from April 6 till Sunday. They were aged between one and 37.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said the elephants did not have gunshot wounds and could have either eaten poisonous subtances or drank poisoned water.

Find out how pygmy elephants died, orders Shafie


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