KAJANG: Putrajaya today said it can only express its dissatisfaction to the Johor state government over the purported de-gazettement of a mangrove forest reserve on which a golf course and hotel project is situated.
Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Xavier Jayakumar said Dr Mahathir Mohamad was “well aware” of the situation.
He said Mahathir had asked Putrajaya to look into the matter and find out what happened and how this was allowed.
Xavier claimed the federal government did not have laws to allow action against a state government on land issues.
But he said the prime minister wants to see how Putrajaya can have “more say” on deforestation.
“We can bring this up to the Attorney-General’s Chambers,” he said. “I think the prime minister is very concerned about this.”
This comes amid calls from green group Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia and rights group Lawyers for Liberty for federal intervention to stop further destruction of the Sungai Pulai area.
Activists recently raised the alarm over the opening of the golf course and hotel project, which they claim is within the Sungai Pulai mangrove reserve in Gelang Patah, a famous riverine mangrove system.
Sources close to the issue told FMT that the project, which opened its doors to the public late last year and reportedly cost RM2 billion, encroached on the protected Sungai Pulai Ramsar wetland as well.
The foreign company involved in the project has repeatedly ignored requests for public comments after an FMT expose recently.
Speaking to reporters here on the sidelines of the nomination process of the Semenyih by-election candidates, Xavier said any “degradation” of mangroves in the country is a concern for Putrajaya.
“Mangroves are one ecosystem that we must safeguard at all costs at this present moment, especially with concerns over climate change, the rise in sea water and the degradation of the Malaysian shoreline,” he said.
However, Xavier said the power for de-gazettement of state forest land lies solely under the purview of the respective state governments, with Putrajaya only acting in an advisory capacity.
“The federal government advises them on what needs to be done. Our foresters are there to advise them and also to inform the federal government if somebody de-gazettes forest land.”
Xavier said Putrajaya would then relay to the state government their unhappiness with any purported forest de-gazetting.
In the case of the golf course, Xavier said he had been in contact with the Johor menteri besar to find out more about the issue.
He also said nothing could be done about the golf course and project itself, but said he would discuss the future of the company’s plans to build two new golf courses in the area with Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian.
“We will get some results soon,” he said, adding he was unsure when the purported land alienation was done.
He said accusations had been made that this was done during the previous administration but this could not be confirmed yet.
Previously, former Johor state executive councillor Ayub Rahmat, who was state health, environment, education and information committee chairman, denied knowledge of any de-gazettement of land there.
The 9,216ha Sungai Pulai mangroves bring socioeconomic balance to the nearby fishing communities and aid in shoreline protection and flood prevention.
In January 2003, Sungai Pulai was listed as a “wetland of international importance” under the Ramsar Convention 1971. It joins Pulau Kukup and six other wetlands as the country’s only Ramsar sites.