By Julia Chan
KOTA KINABALU, March 30 — The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) countries are planning harsher laws to address wildlife trafficking in the region to deter perpetrators from the multi-billion ringgit trade, said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman.
According to Anifah, the approach would provide authorities with the punitive measures needed to combat the menace.
“I am all for heavier penalties, yes. This is a very serious crime happening and when you look at the staggering total of money involved in this trade, and the increasing risk of extinction, it is evident that urgent steps are needed to correct the problem,” said Anifah.
He stopped short of advocating a death penalty, saying it was a personal principle but added that capital punishment has proven not to be a deterrent for drug traffickers.
The subject, he said, would likely be debated at the Asean regional forum workshop on combating wildlife trafficking here.
He said that , an understanding between all parties was possible to reach despite having to work with the legislation, laws, priorities and policies in the different countries.
“Regional cooperation on the matter is very achievable, that’s why Asean was set up.
“Everyone is aware of the danger if we do not take up necessary and remedial steps.
“If we can work on economic issues, combating extremists and terrorists, then I don’t think there is any problem in working with this wildlife trafficking issues,” he said.
However, Anifah added that enforcement alone, even with broader powers and stiffer penalties, will not be enough to tackle the problem.
Instead, he stressed on the primacy of regional cooperation and education.
Last week, the Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard had called for stricter penalties on wildlife traffickers in the country, saying that no one is being punished for committing wildlife offences in spite of the frequency in such cases.
“No one seems to believe that the authority is serious in protecting wildlife. The court must therefore play its role in stamping out this menace of wildlife offences,” he said while imposing a longer jail term from one to three years’ imprisonment and increased the fine imposed from RM10,000 to RM25,000, calling it grossly inadequate.
Carlvin Cher Jia Wei 22, was last year fined RM10,000 or one year’s jail by the Magistrate’s Court after he pleaded guilty to having two live pangolins and 10 dead pangolins without a valid document, at 6.45pm on Oct 30, 2014 in front of the Bukau police beat base in Beaufort.
Other than pangolins, rhinoceros, turtles, elephants and sunbears are also highly prized by wildlife traffickers and poachers for unconfirmed medicinal benefits from the animals.