DON’T SPREAD ‘BLATANT LIES’: MUSA AMAN DEFENDS CONVERSION OF FOREST RESERVE LAND FOR PALM OIL CULTIVATION

KOTA KINABALU: An assemblyman faced the wrath of Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman who spent nearly 40 minutes explaining the intricacies of Sabah’s forest management programme.

Musa appeared to have taken exception to news reports quoting Junz Wong (Parti Warisan-Likas) as questioning the government over the conversion of more than 37,700ha of the Paitan Sugut forest reserve to state land.

Responding to an original question from Datuk Lajim Ukin (Parti Harapan-Klias) on the state’s sustainable forest management programme, Musa said he wanted to reply Wong’s statements with regards to the land conversion and the move by state-owned Yayasan Sabah to venture into oil palm cultivation.

He said the conversion of the forest reserve had been approved by the State Assembly.
“It is not a unilateral decision but part of a transparent system, found only in Sabah and nowhere else in the country,” Musa added.

Similarly, he said, the state had allowed Yayasan Sabah to convert 150,000ha of the low-valued acacia plantations into oil palm as a source of revenue for the foundation.

He said the state had benefited from this conversion as the oil palm venture had resulted in RM40mil income for Sabah in terms of royalties and sales tax.

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While acknowledging that portions of Sabah’s forest reserves had been excised for specific reasons, Musa said the totally protected areas (TPAs) had more than doubled since the 1970s.

He said over the 40 years, Sabah’s TPAs had swelled from 850,000ha to the current 1.9mil ha.

“Our planted, restored and treated forests are now at 700,000ha and these are the most extensive in Malaysia,” he added.

“If the Likas assemblyman does not understand what’s going on, he can see me or the Chief Conservator of Forests. But please don’t go around spreading blatant lies,” Musa said.

– ANN