PETALING JAYA: The Johor Crown Prince (Tunku Mahkota Johor or TMJ) says he respects the right of a Dr Xavier Jayakumar to speak up about the Pulau Kukup issue as a minister but blasted bloggger Datuk A. Kadir Jasin for being "more vocal" on this issue and a "coward" for allegedly hiding being cybertroopers.
"I respect Dr Xavier as a Minister but I would suggest that in the future, perhaps he could work closely with the state," he said on his Twitter account late Sunday night (Dec 9).
He also said that the act of reprimanding does not have any ill intentions, adding that respect towards one another (still) existed.
"The government has to work together for the country. A minister has the right to voice his opinion," he said.
Dr Xavier, the Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister, had said on Sunday (Dec 9) that the Cabinet wanted Pulau Kukup to remain as a national park.
He said the move to change the island's status to Sultanate land might affect Malaysia’s reputation internationally in preserving biodiversity.
Tunku Ismail then reprimanded Dr Xavier on Sunday, saying that “outsiders should not meddle on matters related to Johor”.
On Monday morning (Dec 10), Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad rebutted the Johor Crown Prince by pointing out that the federal government is not an “outsider”.
“Malaysians are not outsiders. The Federal Government is not an outsider. We are responsible for all things in the country,” said the Prime Minister.
Tunku Ismail reserved harsher words for a "non-minister" for being "more vocal" in the Pulau Kukup issue compared to the Minister.
"But, what I find strange is that a non-minister seems to be more vocal.
"Everyday (he) sits in Menara Ilham and flatters his boss. He thinks that this country and government belong to him
"You hide behind your cybertroopers and bloggers. Coward," he tweeted late on Sunday night.
Although Tunku Ismail did not expressly state who he was referring to, it can alluded to be Kadir Jasin, who was previously the Media and Communications head of the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP). The CEP used to work from Menara Ilham.
He is currently the media and communications adviser in the Prime Minister's Office.
Kadir Jasin had previously also given his views on the Pulau Kukup issue.
He said if the Pakatan Harapan state government under Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian had approved the move to de-gazette the island, then it was no better than the previous Barisan Nasional government.
Kadir Jasin had also said that Osman should consider resigning if could not explain the issue to the satisfaction of the people who voted him in.
Pulau Kukup, one of the few remaining pristine wetlands in South-East Asia, came under the spotlight after a gazette dated Oct 25 was leaked.
This stated that the Johor state government would be degazetting the island from its status as a fully protected national park.
Tunku Ismail claimed that Pulau Kukup will be "better protected" after its status is changed from national park to Sultanate land.
This is because the matter had already been "settled" after the Sultan of Johor had decreed that its status as a national park would remain, even though it was now Sultanate land.
Lawyers for Liberty had asked why the stripping of national park status was done "silently", without ay public announcement, until the gazette was leaked online.
The Pakatan Harapan state government blamed Barisan Nasional for the fiasco.
Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian said on Sunday (Dec 9) that the decision to degazette Pulau Kukup as a national park was done by the former Barisan Nasional government in March 2018.
“My government only came to know about the degazetting in the media," he claimed.
However, Lawyers for Liberty advisor N. Surendran said on Thursday (Dec 6) that the Johor state government must stop shifting blame for the issue, as the actual degazetting order was made by the Pakatan state authorities on Sept 24, four months after it took over Johor.
He said while it was true that the previous Barisan state government made the decision to degazette Pulau Kukup in March 2018, they were not responsible for the actual degazetting.
Pulau Kukup, located off the coast of Pontian in south Johor, has been a national park since 1997 and is mostly uninhabited.
Renowned as the world's second largest uninhabited mangrove island, it is one of five Ramsar sites in Malaysia.
Ramsar sites are wetland sites accorded international importance under the United Nations’ Convention on Wetlands.
Dr Xavier had said that the island, has over 18 species of mangroves, with an ecosystem that could rarely be found, and was under the threat of extinction.
It has been identified as a stop for migratory birds and a breeding place for threatened birds such as certain storks, egrets and pittas.He said, “It is also a resource for fish and aquaculture. It is home to an invaluable biodiversity treasure for the country as well as for the state of Johor and any failure in managing the area can lead us to lose these treasures for good.”