Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka Malaysia) strongly disagrees with the Kedah state government’s plan to provide replacement logging sites to logging companies as compensation.
According to media reports, Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor said that the logging companies are those affected due to the Ulu Muda forest being gazetted as a water catchment area.
Although the menteri besar has provided assurances that the replacement sites will be production forests as defined and allowed by the Forestry Department under the law, this plan represents a major backward step from the state’s commitment to sustainable development and environmentally friendly practices.
We also like to remind the menteri besar that any form of logging will affect the ecosystem negatively and cause environmental degradation. If the gazetted areas were water catchment areas, logging concessions involving those areas should not have been issued for those areas in the first place. It is the duty of the state authorities to ensure that water catchment areas are protected. Failure to do so would be tantamount to misfeasance on their part.
To issue new concessions to compensate for a wrongfully issued concession in the first place goes against the grain of good governance and raises serious questions about the true intent of the proposed compensatory issuance of logging concessions.
The state is also duty-bound to adhere to commitments made by the government of Malaysia internationally. This includes the commitment pertaining to ensuring 50% forest cover and to ensuring sustainable development. With official figures by the Forestry Department revealing that West Malaysia only has 43% forest cover remaining, the state should not allow any further logging in the state but instead increase efforts to preserve existing forests and reforestation.
Peka Malaysia reiterates that the environment is a matter of national interest and not merely restricted to individual states within the federation because of its very nature. What is done in Kedah affects other states in Malaysia, and it affects Malaysians as a whole. In recent years, we have seen states in Malaysia face various major natural disasters linked to rampant deforestation and destruction of their natural environment.
This issue is even more pressing as Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, the current minister of environment and water, has stated the position of the federal government about the importance of forests in relation to water resources, a sentiment reflected in combining water issues into the ministry of environment.
Regarding the legal issues between the Kedah government and affected logging companies, Peka demands that the government exercises caution and prudence after conducting a detailed study of the state’s legal position in the matter prior to taking any further steps. This is important especially in light of the decision by the Federal Court in a landmark case which ruled that the prime minister and ministers are public officers, which means that they can be held liable for their acts in public office.
If the ruling government is truly committed to “building a culture based on the importance of environment and water” as outlined by Tuan Ibrahim, then Peka is of the opinion that the state government must rule out all forms of logging as we are at a critical stage of loss of our national heritage and the biodiversity within it.
It is also a threat to national security in the middle to long term as it threatens water resources. Running a state is fraught with challenges, but the state government must not take the easy way out by pandering to the narrow interests of particular groups but provide a lasting solution that is just for all.