KUANTAN: Pahang has ordered a stop to all development projects on Cameron Highlands, following a nationwide uproar over the illegal clearing by contractors of some eight hectares of land on the hill station.
The district office here made a police report against them on Saturday and, on Tuesday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the developers deserved to be jailed rather than be fined for their rape of the environment.
Pahangs freeze order would probably last until amendments are made to the law for stiffer penalties on errant developers, said Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob.
He said the short-term measure was to prevent more land from being encroached, such as in the highlands vegetable farms in Blue Valley.
He hoped the Science, Technology and Environment Ministry would amend the Land Conservation Act 1960 to impose stiffer penalties on offenders.
I hope I am not interfering in the affairs of the Cabinet or ministry but I am suggesting the ministry submit proposals for the Act to be amended and table them at the March parliamentary sitting.
Only a few amendments need to be made, he said after launching the Malaysians For Peace campaign at Wisma Sri Pahang yesterday.
I give my assurance to the Prime Minister and Federal Government that I will do my best to see that it will not happen again, he added.
Adnan said developers could appeal against the freeze order but whether or not it would be entertained depended on them complying with the conditions.
Visiting the site yesterday, The Star found that what had been done was similar to cutting away one's nose and removing all the bumps on one's face till it is raw and bloody.
The raw red earth was barren and what used to be undulating terrain has become as flat as an airport runway.
No one was present and there was only a bulldozer that a source said was spoilt so it could not be removed.
Im happy with the Prime Ministers suggestion but he had made that statement previously, yet nothing was done. I hope this time there is a commitment to actually do something, said Society of Regional Awareness of Cameron Highlands (Reach) president Ramakrishnan Ramasamy.
Reach reported to the district office about the clearing on Jan 29, leading to the halt order after Dr Mahathirs angry statement.
Malaysian Nature Society executive officer Andrew Sebastian hoped that the suggestions would be acted on soon.
He added that the MNS was calling for a five-year moratorium on development in the highlands so studies could be done on the impact of previous and current projects.
Developr K.C. Kwang & Sons director Kwang Kek Chang said he would explain his companys position on the matter today.
In Petaling Jaya, World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia (WWF) executive director Datuk Dr Mikhail Kavanagh Abdullah said the organisation was delighted that Dr Mahathir had proposed jail sentences for greedy developers.
The National House Buyers Association (HBA) felt local authorities should share part of the blame for failing to control indiscriminate land-clearing and hill-cutting by unscrupulous developers.
HBA president Datuk Zainuddin Bachik reasoned that since the local authorities were the approving parties for any development, it was their responsibility to monitor them.
In Penang, Sahabat Alam Malaysia supported the call to jail those who indiscriminately cleared land and cut hills.
Its president S.M. Mohd Idris said the fines imposed on such offenders at present were not deterrent enough.
He said urgent amendments were needed to laws such as the Land Conservation Act 1960 and the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 to allow for the imposition of jail sentences.