ISKANDAR PUTERI: The Johor state assembly has passed an emergency motion to discuss the degazetting of Pulau Kukup as a national park.
The motion was brought by Senggarang assemblyman Khairuddin A. Rahim during the state assembly at Bangunan Sultan Ismail here on Thursday (Dec 6).
State Speaker Suhaizan Kaiat approved the emergency motion, as it adheres to the house rules and received majority support from the assemblymen.
It was reported that Pulau Kukup, one of the few remaining pristine wetlands in South-East Asia, may lose its status as a fully protected national park, as the state government is said to be degazetting the law that gives it that status.
Concerns were sparked on Oct 25 on social media that the state authorities will cancel the whole area as a national park under subsection 3(3) of the National Park Environment Enactment (Johor) 1989.
The Pakatan Harapan-led Johor government has blamed the previous Barisan Nasional administration for degazetting Pulau Kukup as a national park.
State senior executive committee member Aminolhuda Hassan claimed that the current administration had no knowledge of it.
He added that the approval came during an exco meeting by the previous administration held in March.
Tunku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ismail Ibni Sultan Ibrahim said the island would become Sultanate land and claimed that it would better protected.
He said this was practised in the United Kingdom, where all the parks belong to the Crown but it does not change the status, policies, and usage of the park where it continues to remain a national park status.
However, Lawyers for Liberty advisor N Surendran questioned why the Johor state government stripped Pulau Kukup's national park status silently, without informing the public.
He also claimed that the State Exco had made the decision as early as Sept 24, 2018.
"The area was originally gazetted as a national park in 1997 by the then Barisan state government," he pointed out.
"By de-gazetting, the Pakatan state government is proving that they are even worse than Barisan in terms of environmental preservation and protection," he added.
Surendran said the public needed to know the reason for the degazettement, who will profit from it, and whether the state intends to destroy the natural habitat and develop the area.
He also called on the Prime Minister and the Federal Government to urgently use its legal powers to intervene and save Pulau Kukup.
Pulau Kukup, located off Pontian in south Johor, is renowned as the world's second largest uninhabited mangrove island.
It is one of Malaysia's five Ramsar sites - wetlands of international importance under the United Nations’ Convention on Wetlands.
According to the Johor National Parks Corporation website, Pulau Kukup has several endangered animals such as the flying fox, bearded pig and smooth-coated otter.
TMJ: Why politicise Pulau Kukup’s national park status?