Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the normal law of evidence in criminal law at the moment is the prosecutors have to prove an accused has committed a wrongdoing. Pix by Malai Rosmah Tuah

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry is considering amending the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 to make the killing of fully protected animals as a strict liability offence.

If approved, the burden of proof will be on the accused to substantiate that he or she did not commit the crime.

Its Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the normal law of evidence in criminal law at the moment is the prosecutors have to prove an accused has committed a wrongdoing.

“We are looking into the possibility to amend the law and we will consult with our legal officers and the Attorney-General if it’s possible.

“With the amendment, it means the accused will have to prove he didn’t kill it (endangered wildlife animal) because at this point of time, the prosecutors have to come up with evidence to prove a person is guilty and this is not easy,” he told reporters when met at Universiti Malaysia Sabah.

“There are cases within plantation areas where no single person is willing to become a witness despite the police going there (to look for witnesses). Therefore, we are proposing to make such offence a strict liability to make it easier for the prosecutors to prove their case,” he explained.

Masidi said the proposed legislation was among the aspects discussed by the relevant departments under his ministry during a special meeting yesterday in light of the recent poaching of endangered Bornean pygmy elephants and turtles.

He reiterated, the ministry was taking wildlife poaching seriously and they had come up with several resolutions to curb these crimes.

“I’ve directed my permanent secretary (Datu Rosmadi Datu Sulai) to call for a high level meeting with the top officers in the Sabah Wildlife. The (wildlife department) director (Augustine Tuuga) has briefed us of the challenges and they had done their best within their means to tackle (wildlife poaching).

“First and foremost, the department has insufficient assets and manpower so we have decided they should work hand in hand with Sabah Parks as well as the Sabah Forestry Department.

“We are also looking at reshuffling the whole organisation to address issues based on priority. If enforcement is the priority, sections that can survive with less staff will have to mobilise some of the employees to other enforcement sections that need the most support,” said Masidi.

He stressed the ministry would present a cabinet paper to the state government, requesting for more creation of posts particularly in the enforcement unit of Sabah Wildlife Department so it is in a better position to tackle the issue.

On Thursday, WWF-Malaysia urged the state government to allocate more funds to hire and train more rangers on the ground as their constant and tactical presence is a deterrent to poachers.

This follows the recent killing of an adult male Bornean pygmy elephant in Kinabatangan, where poachers not only cut off its tusks but also chopped off its left leg and sliced off its skin before dumping the carcass into a river.

Another recent wildlife poaching incident involved the mutilation of eight green turtles on Pulau Bum Bum off Semporna.

In the event, wildlife experts believed the Pala’u nomads were responsible and that they could have collected the plastrons (shells) to be sold for medicinal purposes.

Masidi said the department is still investigating the matter, adding in all cases of turtle poaching the plastrons have gone missing.

keywords: turtle, WWF Malaysia, Wildlife Conservation Enactment, Datu Rosmaidi Datu Sulai, Augustine Tuuga, Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department, Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Bornean pygmy elephant, Kinabatangan, green turtles, Pulau Bum Bum, Semporna

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