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Monday March 4, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday April 18, 2013 MYT 1:08:31 AM
by isabelle lai
PETALING JAYA: Environmentalists and the public should use Malaysia’s role as a signatory to various international conventions to lobby for better environmental governance, said Universiti Malaya law associate professor Dr Azmi Sharom.
Dr Azmi, a lecturer at the Centre for Legal Pluralism and Indigenous Law, said international policies were only effective if people were aware of them.
“These should be used as a lobbying method – both here at home and internationally. Where international law is concerned, we cannot sue our Government for not adhering to it,” he said in an interview after speaking at the National Conference on Environment: People, Forests and Sustainability, here recently.
Pointing out that Malaysia was a party to various international conventions, including the Convention on Biological Diversity, he said Parliament could technically make laws based on its international obligations concerning the particular issue.
“Under the Federal Constitution, Parliament can make laws even if the matter concerned is under the states’ purview, such as forests. This is provided that the laws are made to enforce or carry out international laws.
“But, historically, the Government has never used this power to make such a law on environment based on its responsibility to international laws,” he said, adding that this was unlikely to ever occur as it would be “political suicide”.
Earlier, in his talk, Dr Azmi said Malaysia had policies such as the National Policy on Environment but this did not deal in-depth with the topic of public participation in environmental management.
He noted as well that the various government agencies were in a “fragmented system”, which made for confusion when it came to policy understanding and enforcement.
“What we need is a strong policy, which is not just given to agencies but distilled to them so that they can truly understand it.
“It has to be a simple management system. It cannot be too bureaucratic or it will fall apart,” he advised.
Regarding the judiciary’s understanding of environmental issues, Dr Azmi said judges would definitely benefit from workshops and programmes on conservation and protection topics.
“There are now improvements in the law to provide harsher punishments.
“Previously, the penalties were very small so judges thought they were not important. Judges are usually also unwilling to give the maximum punishment,” he said.
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