Why is ‘tongkat ali’ haven not protected?

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GEORGE TOWN: Former “Alcatraz” and tongkat ali haven Pulau Jerejak must be gazetted as a national park, Penang Opposition leader Jahara Hamid said today.

She said plans to gazette the 295ha island into a protected park were approved in the state Legislative Assembly in 2007.

“After the DAP-led government took over in 2008, it has not been approved till today.

“This is an insult to this august house. It has been eight years and we are still waiting,” Jahara told reporters at the assembly today.

According to Jahara, the state executive council had approved more than 80% of the former penal colony and leper asylum as a permanent forest reserve on April 18, 2007.

(The remaining unlisted 20 % includes a shipyard, remnants of a leper asylum, a prison and a resort.)

She then referred to a state assembly Hansard record showing that the house had approved a bill to turn Pulau Jerejak into a forest reserve.

The island straddles the South Channel of the Malacca Strait, on the east cost of Penang Island.

Besides Jerejak, Bukit Panchor in Nibong Tebal, with its rare trees, was also bestowed protected status.

Pulau Betong Assemblyman Muhammad Farid Saad questioned if there were “other” plans for Jerejak, following the sale of state shares in the island’s only resort.

He said there was talk about expanding the resort beyond its present boundaries.

“Perhaps by not gazetting the island, they can extend the area beyond the Jerejak Spa and Resort?

“The state government must answer this.”

Jahara said Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had replied to her question on the status of the resort’s ownership at the last assembly in November 2015.

“He (Lim) had written to me saying that shares held by the Penang Development Corporation (state government development agency) in the resort had been sold to Uda Holdings Berhad.

“If you want to sell the resort, it is okay. But if you are planning to expand beyond that, then it is going to be a problem.”

The Penang Government owns 295ha of 359ha land on Pulau Jerejak.

Of the remaining 64ha, 32.5ha was sold to Tropical Island Resort, a company jointly owned by UDA and PDC, to develop it into an ecological tourism project.

Related story: Gazette Pulau Jerejak as forest reserve, says Penang Gerakan