By Chris R. Shepherd [Letter to Editor\
Thank you, New Straits Times, for highlighting that Rela officers are serving as scouts for poachers and offering their government-issued firearms for hunting (Rela members help wildlife poachers, Dec 31, 2013). TRAFFIC hopes the airing of this problem will lead to constructive dialogue with the Home Ministry and firm action to address it.
Rela officers have been linked to poachers and illegal hunting for many years. Over the last seven years there have been no less than 17 media reports of illegal hunting involving Rela members.
TRAFFIC notes that Rela director-general Datuk Mustafa Ibrahim has said he would not hesitate to take action against Rela officers working with the syndicates, including revoking their membership.
While this commitment is commendable, what safeguards have been established by the ministry to ensure its members uphold the law, and that this is being monitored and implemented?
In 2011, TRAFFIC offered to organise training and awareness-raising sessions for Rela members holding firearms licences, in the hope that better understanding of laws and increased appreciation of Malaysia's wildlife would make a difference. To date, this offer has not been taken up, but still stands.
Illegal hunting by those charged with safeguarding the country has gone on for far too long.
Despite mounting evidence, there seems to be a notion among decision-makers that wildlife poaching and trafficking is not a major concern.
In the Belum-Temenggor Forest Complex, at least 530 wild animals were poached and traded from 2009-2012. At least 94 tigers were seized in Malaysia from 2000 to 2012. Nationwide, at least 36,000 pangolins were seized from 2001 to 2012, with half the seizures occurring in the northern states.
We reiterate the offer we made in 2011 and welcome any collaboration with the ministry in addressing wildlife crime.
Please act before it's too late.