Dr M slams palm oil critics, pokes fun at Western hypocrisy

Dr Mahathir Mohamad arrives for his talk at Cambridge Union Society yesterday. He was accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Saifuddin Abdullah (second from left), Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (behind him) and speaker of the Cambridge Students Union Committee Adam Davies (right). (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has described the international community’s assessments and assumptions about Malaysia’s palm oil as not fair.

He also said the arguments claiming that palm oil cultivation activities in the country affected its natural ecosystem were not true.

At a question-and-answer session at Cambridge University after delivering a talk on “Democracy in Malaysia and Southeast Asia”, he said: “Palm oil is the cheapest edible vegetable oil. It is also easy to cultivate, and once planted, the yield can be enjoyed for up to 25 years, unlike other oils such as soybean and rapeseed.

“For that reason, palm oil is able to compete (with other oils) and is likely to win. So they invented this idea that we are cutting down trees to plant (oil) palm and depriving animals of their habitats.”

The session was aired live via Astro Awani’s Facebook earlier today.

Mahathir, who is on a three-day working visit to the United Kingdom, also took a jab at Western hypocrisy in using an environmental narrative for its anti-palm oil campaigns.

“You talk about the environment, clearing the forests, but look at Britain for example, where is Sherwood Forest? Is it still there? Is Robin Hood still operating from there?

“Most of the forests in Europe have been cleared, so much so that there are no more wild animals in Europe. But in Malaysia, we still have tigers. If you would like to go into the jungle, we can send you there,” he said in jest.

Mahathir pointed out that Malaysia wanted to compete with the rest of the world in a fair manner.

“We have to make some money from the resources we have. We have to utilise our resources. Our fertile soil is suitable for oil palm, therefore we produce palm oil,” he said.

The government has capped the expansion of oil palm plantations at 6.5 million hectares, focusing on utilising higher yielding planting materials and increasing productivity without the need to expand into new forests or peatland.

The country also maintains its forest cover of at least 50%.