THE Ministry of Forestry is embarking on new tougher measures to crackdown on illegal logging practices in the country.
The new initiative is aimed at ensuring that logging companies and operators do business within the laws of the land by fully complying with the requirements of the Forestry Act and other related regulations.
Minister for Forestry, Bodo Dettke had confirmed that his Ministry had been given the green light by the office of the Prime Minister to embark on the new initiative.
Mr Dettke said the task is aimed at putting things in their right perspective in line with the laws governing forestry operations in the country.
He said misconceptions about the correct and right operational procedures had for a long time led to many illegal logging practices.
He said under such illegal logging practices companies and operators in breached of the Forestry Act by bypassing certain provisions of the Act and other related regulations had often escaped prosecution by the Authorities.
“We have the strong support from the Prime Minister’s Office and my Ministry will ensure it implement what is legally required to put an end to illegal practices and put things right,” said Mr Dettke.
He lashed out a stern warning that those found out during the crackdown exercise to be responsible for reaching the requirements of the Forestry Act will face the full force of the law through prosecutions.
Mr Dettke pointed out that allegations made against him associating him with conflict of interest for operating a logging company were totally incorrect and misleading.
He dismissed any wrong doing saying his private company is a separate entity which distances himself from while performing his official duties as a Minister of the crown or Government.
“My company in the normal course of carrying out its operations has always tried its best to fully comply with regulations governing logging operations in the country.
“Thus in the course of operation, the company like all others is subjected to monitoring and scrutiny by the responsible authorities and officials. In the event it happens to violate the provisions of the Forestry Act, it would most certainly be subjected face the consequences of its actions under the law,” said Mr Dettke.
Permanent Secretary, Vaeno Vigula pointed out that while the forestry sector had been the main economic financial backbone of the country for a long time, the industry had been neglected to go hey-way allowing operators to carry out illegal logging practices with proper mechanisms to monitor and control their activities.
“We want to change the way they conduct themselves to come in line on the right and lawful path,” said MrVigula.
He said to do that there needs to be proper mechanisms put in place at various locations to ensure effective implementation.
Most importantly Mr Vigula said staff must be moulded to professional ethical work standards.
This will help ensure that staff engaged in forestry duties perform with professionalism.
He said the Ministry is embarking on restoring staff morale putting emphasis on transparency,accountability and discipline.
Mr Vigula said another important aspect the Ministry is embarking on is to ensure every one engaged in the logging industry is treated to the same level playing field.
He said this had not often been the case when one considers the fact that while some logging companies and operators do business in full compliance with the law, others do business outside the requirements of the law.
Mr Vigulu said it is more imminent now that the forestry resources of this country are rapidly declining and it is paramount to ensure proper controlling mechanisms are effected for long term sustainability so that our people can reap the maximum benefit from the resource.
Mr Vigulu urges land owners to approach the commissioner of Forestry if they think their rights have been violated by logging operators and avoid direct confrontation or taking the law into their own hands.
By BRADFORD THEONOMI