Stop thinking of coal mining in Sabah, Putrajaya told

An aerial view of Sabah’s coal-rich Maliau Basin. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Environmental Protection Association (Sepa) has raised concern that Putrajaya may ignore public opinion and disregard due process in its determination to mine for coal in Sabah.

Speaking to FMT, Sepa president Lanash Thanda said she shared former chief minister Yong Teck Lee’s fear that the government was reviving the idea of extracting coal from the Maliau Basin.

On Monday, Yong issued a statement asking whether the cancellation of the Trans-Sabah Gas Pipeline was a signal that Putrajaya had its mind fixed on the coal-rich basin and would revive the previous federal government’s proposal for a coal-powered power-generating plant in the state.

Thanda said Putrajaya had a record of “bypassing due process and planning rules and laws” in undertaking projects in Sabah.

“For example, there’s the new court building where hill cutting was carried out without a proper environmental impact assessment,” she said.

“Similarly, the Pan Borneo Highway project did not get any input from Sabah as to its route.”

Last September, Dr Mahathir Mohamad spoke of exploiting coal reserves in Sabah and Sarawak for electricity generation.

The Arang Dilarang poster used in the protest against the previous government’s coal mine proposal. (Pic courtesy of 

Chief Minister Shafie Apdal’s enthusiastic welcome of the prime minister’s proposal raised eyebrows because many members of the state administration, such as those in DAP, were vehemently against the idea when Barisan Nasional proposed it.

Thanda claimed that “Sabahans were united” in their protest against the plant. “We fought long and hard against it and we finally won when the federal government allowed us to use our own natural gas for energy,” she added.

She said the new government should retain Sabah’s status as the only state not powered by coal plants and move towards environment-friendly energy sources.

She alleged that Putrajaya was trying to steal away Sabah’s heritage.

“It’s now time to fully protect important heritage sites such as Maliau Basin, Imbak Canyon and the world renowned Danum Valley,” she said.

“If Sabahans do not rise and protect our natural heritage sites, they will disappear just as our rhinos have. How will our children and grandchildren ever forgive us?

“It is now up to Sabahan leaders to safeguard our heritage.”