JOHOR BARU: The degazetting of Pulau Kukup was done so that it could be placed under Sultanate land to ensure it is better protected, Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian said.
“Once a place is gazetted as Sultanate land, it comes under the Sultanate Enactment 1934 which does not permit any development in the area.
“This issue will be discussed at the state executive council level and need not drag on,” he said.
Pulau Kukup, one of the few remaining pristine wetlands in South-East Asia, came under the spotlight following a gazette dated Oct 25 which stated that the Johor government would be degazetting the law that gives it the status of a fully protected national park.
This led to much public concern about the island, which features uninhabited mangrove forests near Pontian. Subsequently, the Johor palace confirmed that it will remain a national park.
Addressing the controversy at the state assembly yesterday, Osman said Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar had consented for Pulau Kukup to be preserved as a national park and taken care of by the state government via the Johor National Parks Corporation.
This showed that the Ruler was concerned about the importance of mangroves as a natural protection against waves and their importance to biodiversity, he said.
Osman acknowledged that the degazetting of Pulau Kukup had caused public uneasiness.
He, however, said the degazetting was done by the former Barisan Nasional government in March.
“I was shocked with the reports and even accusations from other Pakatan Harapan leaders who accused the present government of allowing the degazetting, when in fact it was done during the previous administration,” he said.
Osman assured that Pulau Kukup would continue to be preserved and maintained as a national park.
The place would be promoted as a tourism product for the state, he added.
Meanwhile, Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Ibni Sultan Ibrahim has hit out at Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar for issuing a statement on Saturday, saying that Pulau Kukup should remain a national park.
Tunku Ismail said the matter had already been settled after the Sultan of Johor had decreed that its status as a national park would remain.
“On Dec 6, I posted a letter from the Johor state government that was signed by His Majesty that stated that it will fall under Sultanate land but it remains a national park.
“It’s usage and protection does not change.
“This is Johor, where there is a constitution that existed even before Malaysia was formed.
“Therefore in Johor we have our own ways,” he said in a Facebook post yesterday.
Tunku Ismail said that Dr Xavier, as an “outsider”, should not meddle in matters that relates to Johor.
“Secondly, no matter what statement or letter is issued, you have no jurisdiction to override the Johor state constitution,” he added.
The only one who could change the constitution was the state Ruler, he said.
“The letter Johor has issued is clear that Pulau Kukup will remain protected as a national park,” he noted.