‘There are better ways to help’


IPOH: Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu has questioned the sincerity of some groups which claim to fight for orang asli in Perak.

Without naming these non-governmental organisations, he said their representatives would come to the state “once in a while, especially during holidays, on the pretext of loving the forests and the orang asli”.

“These people stay in houses in Kuala Lumpur as big as a palace. Once in a while, they enter the forest, influence the orang asli to protest against logging, and then leave,” he told reporters in an interview on Sunday to mark the first year of Pakatan Harapan’s anniversary.

Logging, he said, was not a crime but it must be done in a sustainable manner.

“Over 48% of the land in Perak was still under forest reserve, but that part, the NGOs are not telling the orang asli,” he said.

Ahmad Faizal said not all trees could be chopped down for logging as only those that were tagged could be felled.

“So blockades will not help anyone; when the timber is not taken out of the forest, it is left to rot. In the end, this will not benefit anyone,” he added.

He called on these NGOs to help the orang asli, just like what the state government had done by urging government-linked companies (GLCs) to adopt orang asli villages.

For a start, nine villages have already been adopted. This, he said, was a more holistic move to help the community.

“We have a total of 256 orang asli villages in the state. We need a strong political will, and support from all parties including NGOs, to increase the socio-economy, education and competitiveness of the community.

“If a forest only has petai, the state wants to help add more trees that will allow us to increase state revenue,” he said.

Ahmad Faizal said that the timber logged currently was approved under the previous administration.

“Even if I approved logging in the past year, the trees have to be tagged, and it will take some years,” he added.

On another matter, Ahmad Faizal said since Pakatan took over the state, several dodgy agreements by some GLCs were terminated.

Citing examples, he said the Perak State Agricultural Development Corporation (SADC) suddenly had a company producing make-up products.

The company had to be shut down, as SADC’s role was to help in the agricultural sector, not to come up with beauty products, he said.

“We also discovered a lopsided agreement between SADC and a third party, whereby the state government provided a piece of land to SADC which came up with all the capital but provided a 50% share to the other party.

“Furthermore, the other company, which did not invest a single sen, was given an upfront profit,” he added.

Asked how he had managed to keep his Mentri Besar post despite much talk about the various attempts to unseat him, Ahmad Faizal said that he was lucky to have the support from experienced leaders from his party.

Whenever he was unsure of anything, he said he would refer to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Datuk Seri Mustapha Mohamad and Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir.

“My ‘secret’ is always having direct access to the Prime Minister,” he said.

He also said that he would not hesitate to approach the state executive councillors and civil servant whenever he could not understand something.

Ahmad Faizal Azumu