Peka Malaysia: Make public hearings for forest reserve degazettement compulsory

By SHAZNI ONG / Pic By BERNAMA

Environmental non-governmental organisation Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam (Peka) Malaysia urges state governments to not degazette forest reserves without holding public forums on the matter.

Peka Malaysia president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil (picture) said current laws to protect forests are very weak due to numerous loopholes, and there is a severe need to change perceptions from one of exploitation to conservation.

“Pulau Kukup serves as a very clear example of how loopholes in legislation can result in misunderstandings and be exploited. It also shows that most state governments are failing to protect the natural environment by not bothering to pass amendments that would safeguard the public interest.

“If state governments truly wish to represent and protect the interests of the rakyat, they should make public participation compulsory in public interest issues such as the degazettement of forest reserves in their state,” she said in a statement.

Shariffa Sabrina said Selangor is the only state in the country so far that has done so by passing an amendment in the Selangor National Forestry Act (Adoption) (Amendment) Enactment 1985. The amendment was passed in 2011.

“While such an amendment does ensure the rakyat is engaged, more can be done if the state and federal governments are truly interested in protecting the environment,” she said.

Shariffa Sabrina added that the federal government must review and amend both the National Forestry Act 1984 and the National Forest Policy 1977, in line with the precautionary principle by weighing in the statement of the water, land and natural resources minister that “protection of our little remaining forest is currently threatening our national security in the scope of our nation’s economy and the inability to reduce global warming and climate change”.

The status of Pulau Kukup became a contentious issue after it was reported that the Johor government had degazetted its status as a national park in October to a Sultanate land.

Pulau Kukup is the second-largest uninhabited mangrove island in the world and is listed as a “wetland of international importance” under the Ramsar Convention 1971.

Apart from Pulau Kukup, there are five other national parks in Johor including Endau-Rompin Peta, Endau-Rompin Selai, Tanjung Piai, Gunung Ledang and Sultan Iskandar Marine Park.

Peka Malaysia has also urged both Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin and Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar to work hand-in-hand with state legislators to strengthen legislation to protect the natural resources and environment, and ensure that amendments are passed in all states and Parliament.

“We are still hoping that the Finance Ministry and the Cabinet will review our proposal before the Budget 2019 speech by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng to offer states a federal debt write-off in return for a total permanent ban on logging and deforestation for plantations,” she said.