PETALING JAYA: An environmentalist has criticised Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok over her response to a video showing international school students speaking out against the palm oil industry at a concert, saying everyone has the right to express his or her views.
Eco-tourism and Conservation Society Malaysia CEO Andrew Sebastian also told FMT that the students should be praised for taking an interest in an issue, researching it and making a stand.
“She (Kok) should not thwart the voice of the young,” he said, adding that her criticism was “appalling”.
Commenting on the video yesterday, Kok had accused the school of not supporting Putrajaya’s efforts to counter the anti-palm oil lobby, saying it should not sabotage the government’s initiatives.
She also said she was prepared to explain to the school the benefits of palm oil and the steps taken by industry players towards achieving sustainable palm oil.
Sebastian said environmental destruction due to palm oil had been well documented in the country. He also claimed that evidence existed showing how lowland rain forests and river reserves had been affected.
“I am deeply disappointed with the minister,” he added.
“I understand that she is the primary industries minister, but she seems to have forgotten or failed to acknowledge the bad practices which have taken place within the industry.
“I hope her colleagues at the energy, science, technology, environment and climate change ministry will correct her.”
He also suggested that Kok invite the students to perform for her, saying she “might learn something”.
Parent Action Group for Education spokesman Tunku Munawirah Putra said the students’ performance shouldn’t be blown out of proportion.
“Students should be allowed to express their concerns over issues. It should not be seen as an attack on the palm oil industry.”
She also urged the authorities to take a positive view of the situation and to engage the students to share how they are working towards developing a sustainable palm oil industry.
Malaysian Nature Society president Ahmad Ismail said Putrajaya should focus on telling the world what Malaysia is doing about deforestation.
He advised the government to engage NGOs to support efforts in the palm oil industry and on issues of deforestation.
“They should also check what plantation companies are doing to meet international standards in forest and wildlife conservation,” he said.
FMT is attempting to contact the international school for comment.