Sabah leaders in the dark over carbon trade deal earnings

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah leaders are puzzled by a statement from a former chief forester that the state government had already received payment from a carbon exchange deal with a United Kingdom-based partner.

Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun told reporters this on Wednesday (Aug 17) after launching an anti-corruption forum at the Sabah International Convention Centre here that he was unaware that the state had received any payment from any carbon trade deal.

The Sabah Finance Minister II said the claim by Yayasan Sabah deputy director Datuk Sam Mannan that the payment had been made in advance to the state had not been raised in the Sabah Cabinet meeting.

Mannan was reported to have said in a press conference in Sandakan on Monday (Aug 15) that the state government had landed a deal on carbon exchange after 10 years of deliberation, involving 80,000ha of forest land in Kuamut.

The former Sabah chief conservator of forests and presently technical advisor on forestry to the Sabah Chief Minister was quoted as saying in a Bernama report that an advanced payment to the state government had also been made.

He said, however, that due to "business considerations", the sum earned so far could not be disclosed.

"It is pertinent to disclose that this UK-based partner of ours was recently awarded the best carbon project in the tropics for 2022, based on their assets outside Sabah," he added.

Mannan also said the state entity to lead the deals in Sabah's carbon exchange would be state-owned Yayasan Sabah and that right should remain Sabahan.

This latest carbon trade deal is not the same with the previously controversial Nature Conservation Agreement (NCA), which was previously declared "legally impotent" by Sabah Attorney General Datuk Nor Asiah Mohd Yusof.

Meanwhile, Kota Kinabalu MP Chan Foong Hin has called on Yayasan Sabah to disclose the sum earned from the deal.

Chan, who is DAP spokesman for Sabah affairs, said while he was happy the state government had landed the carbon exchange deal involving 80,000 ha of forest land in Kuamut, details of the same cannot be made a secret under the reason of "business considerations".

"In the interest of accountability and transparency, the amount earned should and must be declared in the state's financial report as part of the state's revenue and be made part of the Sabah government's annual budget for the benefit of all Sabahans," he said, in a statement on Wednesday.

"It should also be open to scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee of the Sabah State Legislative Assembly to ensure that the amount paid or payable to Yayasan Sabah is just and fair with no leakages," he added.

Chan explained that it was important to note that Yayasan Sabah was established through Enactment No. 8 of the Sabah State Legislative Assembly in 1966.

The foundation, he added, was set up with the objective of "creating opportunities for a more equitable distribution of economic wealth among the people in Sabah".

"If we don't even know the amount of economic wealth generated to benefit Sabahans from the carbon trade deal, how can Yayasan Sabah be held truly accountable?

"How can the people of Sabah be sure that there is no under-table dealings for payment of middleman fee and/or introducer fee to any member of the Board of Trustees of Yayasan Sabah?" he asked.

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