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The KLNFR degazettement debacle

If A Tree Falls In The Forest…

Months after public hearings ended, nearly a year after indigenous communities thought they’d been seen, environment groups that they’d been heard, and long after politicians of every stripe overwhelmingly voted N-O, the Selangor state government decided to flip everybody the bird and sign off a chunk of the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve (KLNFR) to a private developer.

This cunning plan, a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel, was hatched back in May, at a time when most folks were fretting over rising Covid-19 cases and Selangor was being placed under the MCO 3.0 lockdown that’d eventually cover the entire country.

The perfect time, in other words, for the Pakatan Harapan state gomen to very quietly degazette more than half KLNFR with the aim of turning it into a different kind of jungle, one made of concrete.

There are two big problems with this degazettement:
1) Its impact on the rights of indigenous people
2) The cost to the environment

This 8,000-year-old space was declared a forest reserve nearly a century ago and this green lung is the heaven the Temuan people call home. It’s also home to a rare peat swamp that’s critical to protect against flooding, and home to unique and threatened flora and fauna (like the Langat red fighting fish, Malayan sun bear, mersawa paya tree and Meranti Bakau, to name just a few). 

Despite the honeyed tones of the state government, something stinks to the high heavens with this whole exercise.

Sure, the move was done according to the law (specifically S11 of the National Forestry Act 1984), which allows state bigwigs to take gazetted land if it’s required for a “higher” economic u$e. 

Sure, the affected area’s way less than what they’d previously intended to bulldoze. 

Sure, they’ve promised to replace the lost forest with other forest areas of sorta equal value (and what? Call a Grab to take the animals to their new digs?).

And sure, the oh-so-considerate (sarcasm dial turned up to 11) state gomen chaps claim they have nothing but the rakyat’s best interests at heart. They insist the move’s necessary for long-term property and other development planning for the sake of future generations (Yes, they played the Whitney Houston card, we shit you not).

But guys, how do you explain why you need to clear this particular forest at this particular time for development, when Selangor has one of the worst property overhangs in the country?

If everything was Fab Buku Baru clean, why would your own reps so publicly claim to be so discombobulated, befuddled, confused and lost?

Why are the developers — a state entity and an RM1 company — linked to this deal, dodgy AF? Where was the transparency in the awarding of this project?

And where’s Pakatan Harapan’s once-holy manifesto now? After all, in Promise 39 AND 48, didn’t Pakatan vowed to balance economic growth with environmental protection and guarantee the right of customary land of the Orang Asli? So what’s happened to all those sweet nothings that were whispered in voters’ ears?

At this point, the Selangor administration’s behaviour is more reminiscent of the late Kedah PAS MB Azizan Abdul Razak’s “timber is God’s gift” stance to destroying the environment, than its own past words and promises. 

Since news broke on Monday, Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari has reportedly hit pause on the degazettement plant.

But he and his team have since either run for the hills or are doing their best Speak No Evil monkey 🙊impression: there’s been no justification why this, and only this, plot of land so greatly needs to be developed.

And though we’ve been riding the “let’s whack the backdoor gomen” wave for the past 18 months-plus, may we remind you that these shenanigans are actually from a front-door, elected administration! 

Oy vey. Clowns to the left, jokers to the right! 🤦

Artist of the Month
Faizati Mohd Ali
Faizati is a lawyer by day and artist all the time. She’s been drawing since her teens, and her work has appeared in magazines like Gila-Gila and Gelihati. These days, she takes inspiration from her 13 cats and issues she feels strongly about, such as gender inequality, social injustice and discrimination. See more about her here.

Picture of Illustration by Fahmi Reza

Illustration by Fahmi Reza

Fahmi Reza is one of Malaysia's most iconic political graphic artists and activists. Using his wizardry with the pen and his wicked sense of humour, he calls out government and political incompetence and deceit through graphics and posters.

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