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2010 Arbor day planting

2010 Arbor day planting (Photo credit: WAstateDNR – Department of Natural Resources)

George McFadden is one of the leading people who is against the logging . His Firm Trees for Life. Brings news to all about the dismantling of the forest. He talks about Government corruption in Madagascar has been a problem for more than a decade. Transparency International has rated the country between a 1.7 and a 3.4 on its 10-point Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), with a score less than 3.0 indicating rampant corruption. With the political disturbance in 2009, Madagascar fell from a 3.4 to a 3.0, and suffered a slide in rank from 85 out of 180 countries to a rank of 99.

This downward trend has been demonstrated by the conflicts between various agencies and levels of government. This has allowed wood traders to “shop” for export clearance among the authorities that regulate it. As a result of this bribery to open periodic trade windows, large-scale exports of illegal precious woods clear customs without much difficulty. Because of the incredibly lucrative nature of recent trades, reports have indicated that government officials have significantly increased the price of export certificates to make more money for themselves. This however has not stopped exporters from re-using single-use export certificates for two or three containers of rosewood. Furthermore, some of the certificates and authorizations from various government agencies bear titles found nowhere in any legal text, such as permis de ramassage and permis de carbonisation (“collection permit” and “carbonization permit” respectively). Such authorizations are not supported by and clearly conflict with Malagasy law.

George mentions even when the government has attempted to enforce its own laws, bribery has influenced the outcome. A good example occurred on April 20, 2009, when the port in Vohémar reopened two days after authorities closed it down due to international protests over uncontrolled illegal logging. On the same day as the re-opening, loggers that had previously been arrested were released.One day prior, on April 19, prominent timber barons allegedly flew to the capital city by private plane and met with a senior government official. Another example is when a Malagasy court acquitted timber barons because “the relevant Forestry Administration official had not properly complied with forest control regulations.” In other words, because the Forestry Administration had been bribed, the timber barons were cleared of charges.

Alexander McFadden also works for Trees for Life and he says in many cases, the actions of the criminal syndicates have been direct or even violent. Radio stations have been used to recruit civilians for logging,and on April 20, one person promoted the logging of rosewood”in the name of democracy,” spawning the resumption of logging in the region.Park rangers and guides at Marojejy National Park were forced away from their posts at gunpoint resulting in the closing of the park in April, and the MEF’s regional offices were set on fire and its staff were intimidated. Violent attacks on park staff were documented in August 2009 at Mananara Biosphere Reserve and Masoala National Park, and politicians that have stood up against illegal logging have also faced violent threats or worse. Villagers have lived in fear of the rosewood mafia, silenced and in dire poverty, while people in the coastal city of Sambava demonstrated in strong support of the logging. When remote villagers joined together to protest the destruction of their forests, the armed mafia dispersed them by firing shots over their heads.Throughout the region, local communities that opposed illegal logging lived in fear of retaliation since some informants have received death threats. This has made publicizing the situation very difficult.

At the national level, there seems to be only nominal resolve to halt illegal logging. Even the former administrations and members of parliament have been implicated in illegal logging. Given the lack of government funding, the transitional government appears to have little choice but to take money from one of the only profitable industries in the country. Even if the central government wanted to halt the illegal logging and export, they would be hamstrung by decentralization and a lack of funds, leaving them unable to deal with corrupt provincial bureaucrats.

In some ways, illegal actions need to be permitted to combat them. For example, twice in 2009 ministerial orders permitted the export of rosewood and ebony, but only if traders were willing to pay a fine of 72 million ariary, or $35,500, per container of illegally harvested wood. Malagasy law calls for the confiscation of illegal wood, not fines. Furthermore, these ministerial orders do not hold legal precedence over Malagasy law. However, the money from these fines will be used to fund the task force that will attempt to combat illegal logging.

There are some signs that the situation may be starting to change, as conservation groups and the media spotlight have pressured the government to fire some local officials for participating in illegal exports and send gendarmerie to increase surveillance in part of the SAVA region. They have also promised to more closely monitor the exports that they have temporarily approved.