Anti-graft group fears Kelantan deforestation will breed corruption, cronyism

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Source: The Malaysian Insider

The Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism is concerned over Kelantan’s logging policies after the state approved additional land for logging. – Photo courtesy of Flickr, October 18, 2015.

The Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) has raised concerns that the deforestation in Kelantan, following policies by the state government, will breed corruption and cronyism.

C4 executive director Cynthia Gabriel in a statement today called on the Kelantan government to reveal if the multiple approvals awarded to a private company has breached the state’s annual logging cap.

She said that during the height of the flood crisis in Kelantan last December, Kelantan Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob blamed “illegal land clearing and logging” for the devastating floods in the state, and added the government had always capped logging at 5,960 hectares a year, the standard set by the National Land Council.

“So it comes as a shock to discover that Kelantan recently approved an additional 4,500 hectares to a private company for logging, while 9,000 acres (3,642 hectares) are to be used for oil palm planting.”

PAS Salak assemblyman Datuk Husam Musa recently said that a private company had allegedly obtained several approvals from the state government, raising the question if only crony companies were benefiting from the state’s generosity.

Gabriel said the lack of an open tender system and proper policies outlining the state’s approval procedures for such activities raises more questions.

“Who is benefiting from these concessions or repeated approvals, what are the merits of the company, and why has it been given several approvals to clear the forests?”

She said the state government must consider the effect such clearing of trees would have on the environment, in light of last year’s massive flood.

“Such massive clearing of trees also leads to global warming and draught, a situation which Kelantan can ill afford, being one of the poorest states in the country,” she said, adding that it appeared the state has not learnt from last year’s flood disaster, which displaced more than 200,000 people.

Gabriel also urged Kelantan to consider drafting a policy on land clearing.

“Kelantan can emulate its neighbour in Pahang, where its state assembly recently called for more stringent requirements to be imposed on loggers to ensure that contractors carry out logging activities in the state more responsibly.”

She also urged the PAS-led state administration to heed the concerns raised by Sahabat Alam Sekitar Malaysia (SAM) that a large tract of Kelantan’s permanent reserve forests had been felled to be converted into plantation forests.

SAM had said that a total of 41 licences were approved to logging concessions in the permanent forest reserves in south Kelantan. – October 18, 2015.