Rajang River logjam: No more ‘tai’ with Taib

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Some might see the Rajang River logjam disaster as a sign of a withdrawal of the mandate of heaven – a sign of the need for leadership change. Has the time come, wonders our special correspondent.

Logjam at Kapit: Time's up for Taib

By now many Malaysians would have seen the reports about the logjam along the Rajang River. What to say other than all the chickens are slowly coming home to roost.

This is a great time to go back over the various statements of ministers and forestry department officials about how the logging activities are sustainable, etc. According to the sarawakforestry.com website, the state government aimed to “position Sarawak at the forefront of sustainable forest management and conservation, as outlined in Sarawak Forestry Corporation Ordinance, approved by the State Legislative Assembly in 1995”.

Sarawak (or Malaysia) Boleh! Now, we can ‘sustainably’ log a forest to finally result in a log fall large enough to jam the Rajang, Malaysia’s longest river, for 50 kilometres. Amazing!

While we can be sure Malaysia would have gone to the UN and boasted of its achievements in the Millennium Development Goals, this single incident gives the lie to any claims officials may have made about achieving MDG-7.

This is not a “natural” calamity. Just examine the “debris”: it is not rotting vegetation suddenly being washed down into the river. Perhaps something broke in one or more of the log ponds and perhaps it was also due to the clearing of forests for plantation.

This time, James Masing blames the loggers – and this time he speaks the truth.

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Remember in February 2009, when fish were drowning in Bakun, Mukah, Kapit, Marudi and in the Baram River near Miri? The Ministry of Environment and Public Health’s findings reportedly pinned the blame on ‘suffocation’ caused by siltation, due to logging, plantations and land-clearing projects. (And to think the government is giving out soft loans – public money – to timber companies that are clearing forests and setting up oil palm and tree plantations.)

Not long after that, wasn’t traffic between Kapit and Belaga suspended for quite a while longer than usual due to low water, making the Pelagus Rapids impassable? As one frustrated visitor, Pete, observed last year:

If you’ve ever wondered about the statistics involving deforestation of rainforest, you only need a short trip along the Rajang for those soundbites to become a cold reality. “An area the size of Wales every year” or “six football pitches every hour” becomes a little hard to visualise, but seeing barge after barge after barge loaded with timber, and seemingly endless factories churning out plywood from vast lumber yards, was a thoroughly depressing and humbling experience. There may be controls in place but believe the quotes, they are true – the rainforest is disappearing and at a rate you cannot imagine.

And now the logjam along the Rajang. Is anyone truly surprised? How many more events before we wake up to the signs?

Some might see this logjam disaster as a sign of a withdrawal of the mandate of heaven – a sign of the need for leadership change (san tian yao sou hui tian min de xin hao 上天要收回“天命”的信号 ). The time has come, the heavens say… As for the SUPP, the question is, will they this time be part of that dynastic change, or will they be swept away by that dynastic change?

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No more ‘tai’ with Taib; instead, time for pembaharuan (with Baru?)

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