Musa keeps Rosmah happy and Shafie out


(FMT) – LAHAD DATU: Musa Aman has ultimate control over the state’s economy, security and soil. He is Chief Minister, Finance Minister and Sabah Umno chairman.

It is a concentration of power, without oversight and unprecedented, in a state government. It was unheard of prior to the Umno-led Barisan Nasional’ s takeover of the state administration.

It also explains Musa’s controlling reach in the extraction and export of logs from Sabah’s forests. Timber was once Sabah’s goldmine.

According to timber industry insiders, there are no other “real” players anymore. There’s only Musa and his proxies.

According to these insiders, in the past there were timber producers like North Borneo Timber, Wallace Bay and Teck Heng Loong.

In 1966 Yayasan Sabah came along and became one of the players. But eventually under Musa’s guidance, Yayasan Sabah forced most of the major producers to fold up.

On the buyers’ end, among the big players were Sumitomo, Ataka, C. Itoh and Marubeni.

“But the good old days are long since over.

“The multiple companies and businessmen involved in the trade in the 70s and 80s are now all gone.

“There’s only one man controlling it all through proxies,” said an industry insider.

Lumberjack Musa

Speaking to FMT over dinner here recently, former chief minister Yong Teck Lee concurred with the views of the timber industry insiders.

“There is no other timber man in Sabah… only Musa.

“He knows the industry well… from top to bottom. From logging to export. He started off in the industry years ago and made his money from transporting logs to the ships.

“That was when Sabah’s economy depended on log exports. I still remember ‘Lumber Night’ when all the big shots in the timber industry from around the world turned up for a dinner at a hotel.

“It was hosted by the timber industry here. But now, no more,” said Yong, who himself knows the logging and timber industry very well.

He is also aware of the current state of the timber industry in Sabah and the dearth of logs. Over the past eight months, dozens of sawmills have been forced to shut down and hundreds of workers laid off.

But the exports of round logs continue and the extraction of the hard and soft wood found in Sabah’s jungle goes on unabated keeping Musa and Umno happy.

Not Sabah logs

It is widely known here that the best timber is feverishly being extracted from forest reserves including the famed Danum Valley and Maliau Basin where Sabah’s last remaining virgin forests stands.

Demand for logs from Sabah is booming and logging has seen an up-tick following the tsunami in Japan in March as well as China and South Korea.

The demand has been such that industry sources say the state authorities cannot justify the amount exported out of Sabah.

Export manifests often state that shipments are from Papua New Guinea. But in reality these logs are coming from Kalimantan in neighbouring Indonesia, said a timber industry source.

The Sabah government has said it expects annual revenue from timber production to be less than RM100 million a year over the next 20 years.

Extraction from natural forests is said to be about 200,000 cubic metres annually but timber industry sources are sceptical about these figures.

According to these insiders, the actual figures are double and the amount of earnings are undeclared.

In October last year, Musa told participants of an international business conference that over three decades of logging had “inevitably resulted in the reduction of productive capacity of forests”.

He admitted that “such dependence coupled with past practices that were not environment-friendly, illegal logging and forest fires, resulted in the degradation of our forests”.