Overloaded trucks damaging public infrastructure and endangering travellers in Malaysia


KUCHING - A Sarawak Barisan Nasional component party, PRS, said illegal logging could still be rampant in rural areas, judging by road damage and sightings of lori hantu, the term locals use to describe overloaded logging trucks.

The renewed allegation comes half a year after the state government installed height barriers on roads leading to Bakun and Murum dams, and three months after a mammoth Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission crackdown against illegal loggers, which is ongoing.

In an interview with The Star, PRS Youth information chief Bit Surang criticised state and federal bodies for not doing enough.

"We are receiving many complaints from Murum, Sungai Asap and Belega that these lori hantu are still operating, destroying main roads leading to Bintulu. These defiant acts have not come to an end. This is a fight the government must not lose," Bit said yesterday.

He claimed that complaints had fallen on deaf ears even as PRS helped residents lodge police reports.

"These lori hantu are destroying public infrastructure and endangering those travelling on the roads. Why is there no end to the issue? Are these timber companies more important than the lives of our people?

"The roads are not meant for these lorries. The newly completed Murum-Bakun road is already pockmarked by potholes."

Bit's allegations are not new.

Since March, Sarawak-based newspapers have been featuring the allegations highlighted by the PRS Youth leader.

His complaints and those of others led to the state government installing the height barriers. However, within days, the barriers were destroyed.

At the time, Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem responded by saying: "They tear one, we will erect three stronger ones."

Now, Bit said, where there are height barriers, diversion roads have been "created" by the logging trucks.

Most of the vehicles travel in a convoy, he said, adding, even if the logs were legal, the trucks were over the height and weight limits.

Last week, reports also emerged of logjams along tributaries upstream of the Bakun hudro electric dam. Hulu Rajang MP Datuk Wilson Ugak Kumbong said portions of major rivers line Linau were clogged with timber debris and were hazards.

"I just visited the area and it took my boat more than an hour to pass through a 500m stretch where debris clogged Sungai Limau. The situation is very dangerous for those who still depend on these rivers upstream of Bakun," Wilson told reporters.

Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd told a local daily it had spent RM60mil since the Bakun hydroelectric dam was built to clear debris from the reservoir and upstream waterways.

PRS president Tan Sri Dr James Masing, who is state Land Development Minister, has called on the company to do more.

"Sarawak Hidro must give more funds to clear the waterways.

"They are not there just to generate electricity and earn money, but also to be responsible to allow the lake to be used by former residents of Bakun.

"Don't leave the residents to fend for themselves," Masing said in a statement.