Wan Junaidi: Avoid violence over Gua Musang logging


  • Nation
  • Saturday, 01 Oct 2016

KUALA LUMPUR: Stand down – that’s the advice from Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar to both parties involved in a violent confrontation over logging activities in Gua Musang.

Since Wednesday, loggers were at loggerheads with the orang asli community who are preventing them from transporting out the felled logs via a blockade.

Several of them were allegedly “detained” by police and there were even allegations of villagers being threatened by chainsaws and shots fired.

The authorities have denied all this and urged the people not to spread rumours which could aggravate the situation further.

Orang asli villagers claimed that a swath of land between Pos Tohoi and Pos Simpor was ancestral land, even though loggers have been given a concession by the Kelantan state government.

Responding to the standoff, Dr Wan Junaidi said whilst he understood the need to defend ancestral land, the tactics used were leaning towards “militancy”.

“Actually, orang asli have no reserve land in Kelantan. In the state, orang asli living in forestry areas are considered squatters.

“They are not the owners as the land belongs to the state.

“I can understand if you assume that place belongs to you, then you will fight for it. But they are doing it wrongly,” he said.

Dr Wan Junaidi did not spare the state government either, saying that the ministry was “helpless” over logging activities there because licences and concessions were entirely under the state’s jurisdiction.

“I don’t agree with the logging activities. We should look into creative ways to promote our jungles such as for eco-tourism and not simply cut down trees.

“We can make recommendations to the state but it is all up to them,” he said.

Both sides appeared not to give in over their rights.

As news of the confrontation spread in the social media, politicians, environmentalists and activists were speaking up, with some urging the state government to respect the rights of the orang asli.

Dewan Negara Senator Isa Ab Hamid, who champions orang asli rights, said he would raise their grouses with the Kelantan Land and Mines Office.

“The land may not have been gazetted as ancestral land but the state government should be tolerant of the villagers.

“Be humane. The jungle is what they rely on for food, water and shelter,” he said.

Environmentalist Prof Dr Maketab Mohamed said logging would be detrimental to the ecology there.

“Logging will pollute streams and impact the natural habitat as well as wildlife, resulting in less food and affecting the source of clean water for drinking.

“In short, their traditional way of life will be disrupted,” he said.

Kelantan MCA liaison committee secretary Datuk Lua Choon Hann chastised the PAS–led government, expressing shock at how easy it was for loggers to obtain licences to cut trees in forest reserve.

“I do not see any logic in PAS’ exhortation of protecting the forest reserve for logging purposes.

“Licenses were given out for clearing logs but the orang asli who have been living there since the 1980s were forcibly evicted for allegedly occupying the area illegally,” he said.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia called for an investigation into claims of a collusion between the authorities and logging companies.

Its president S.M. Mohamed Idris said allegations that Forestry Department staff and police had travelled together in private vehicles with logging company representatives to the blockade site were “deeply worrying.”

“We call upon the police to remain impartial, to respect the legal rights of the people and to investigate the incidents at the site,”he said.

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Environment , Gua Musang , Orang Asli

   

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