‘Approval given to protect area’

ALOR SETAR: Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah has admitted that the large-scale Musang King plantation was approved during his time as Kedah mentri besar.

He claimed that the move to grant a private company approval to plant durian trees was meant to prevent logging activities in Gunung Inas, Baling.

“When I was mentri besar, a local company bought a firm that was given approval to manage Gunung Inas by the previous state government before me.

“At that time, the company’s proposal was to convert the area to a large-scale Musang King durian plantation and not for logging at all,” he said in a Facebook post yesterday.

Ahmad Bashah said there were already logging activities in the area when he assumed the mentri besar post in 2016, adding that it was a continuation of activities proposed by other companies responsible for managing the area.

He said the focus of his administration then was to make sure the area was conserved and rehabilitated after deforestation.

He said at that time, there were many proposals from other companies, but the one that was put forward by the private company was more convincing.

“All factors including the economy, natural environment, public interest and others were taken into consideration,” he said, stressing that approval was given to protect the area, with the government reaping benefits from it at the same time.Last week, another former Kedah mentri besar, Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, said the Musang King durians were planted in the area during Ahmad Bashah’s administration.

Ahmad Bashah was mentri besar from 2016 to 2018 before Mukhriz took over after the 14th General Election.

Ahmad Bashah said the state government approval was meant to protect the area and, at the same time, reap benefits from the project.

“It is not uncommon for a new government or state leadership to cancel or discontinue the efforts of the previous government or leadership. It’s up to them.

“For me, the main issue is the government must find a way to protect the areas that have been logged.

“I’m not saying logging is wrong because it can’t be done arbitrarily. It needs to go through government approval,” he added.

He said the matter shouldn’t be “overly politicised” and politicians should try and take immediate action instead of blaming each other.

On July 4, a continuous three-hour downpour caused massive floods and another water surge in Baling. Three people, including a pregnant woman, died and hundreds of others were displaced.

On Monday, Environment and Water Minister Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said the floods in several villages in Baling were due to a burst reservoir at a Musang King durian plantation at Gunung Inas.

The villagers have claimed that a mammoth 1,200ha durian plantation on top of Gunung Inas was behind the flood that destroyed their property.

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