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Smallholders face MPOB wrath; major polluters let off

 | August 8, 2012

Where's the logic is persecuting oil palm smallholders when the big plantations commit crimes againt nature?

AWAU: An opposition party in Sabah wants Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) to take firm action against oil palm planters and millers who maximise profits by flouting environmental laws.

Sabah DAP publicity secretary Chan Foong Hin said that MPOB was sending out the wrong message when it ignored what some see as a creeping catastrophe in the state caused by an industry that refused to deal with the problem of waste discharge due to lax controls.

He said MPOB should impose a stiff penalty on polluters instead of going after those harvesting, transporting or selling unripe Fresh Fruit Bunch (FFB) to oil palm mills.

“Sabah DAP urges MPOB to abolish its new policy which provides a jail term of up to three years, a fine of up to RM200,000 or both on those who are caught selling unripe oil palm fruits.

“We would like to remind MPOB that they are a government agency entrusted to serve the country’s oil palm industry, not to punish the industry by implementing an unreasonable and illogical policy.

“MPOB should work together with Department of Environment (DOE) to resolve the environmental disaster happening now in Sabah,” he said.

Chan said that the new fine on the sale of unripe oil palm kernels was unreasonable and illogical as buyers have the right not to purchase these fruit.

He said the only downside to the collection and sale of such fruit was on production yield and the oil extraction rate.

“It is not a crime for smallholders to market such fruit. On the other hand, what is a crime is environmental violations but that those involved are going unpunished.

Where’s the logic?

Many, both in and outside the industry, are aware that a serious environmental disaster is taking place in Sabah due to non-compliance with palm oil mill effluent (POME) discharge into rivers state wide.

POME, the liquid waste discharged from the palm oil production, is blamed for killing rivers by reducing the oxygen level in it and suffocating aquatic life. The poisoning of the rivers and streams has also had disastrous effects on clean water supply to villages where piped water supply is a luxury.

Subsistence farmers and fishermen in the state have complained that their economic activities have been affected while the booming tourism industry is worried that the industry is killing is fledgling eco-tourism market.

“Given the mass pollution caused by POME, what is the price (that) need to be paid by millers?” asked Chan.

The Environment Quality Act 1974 states that “any holder of a license who contravenes sub-section 10 shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding RM25,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or both, and a further fine of RM1,000 for every day the offence is continued after a notice by the director-general requiring him to comply with such terms or condition specified therein served upon him.

Chan said the government through MPOB is sending the puzzling message that those involved in the sale of unripe fruits, which is not a crime, will be punished by fines up to RM200,000 while those involved in environmental crimes which cause a river to die faced a fine of up to RM25,000 or two years in prison or both.

“Does it mean that unripe fruit is more harmful and a crime in nature than dead rivers? What is more important in the eyes of lawmakers?

“Why do the oil palm planters who are mostly small holders need to pay a fine when they are just trying to survive?

“Is our government protecting big corporate who own the mills?” he asked.


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