Green groups march to Parliament demanding stronger forestry laws

Protesters carry banners and placards calling for environmental conservation and a halt to deforestation.

KUALA LUMPUR: Several environmental groups marched to Parliament today to hand over a memorandum to the government demanding stronger laws for forestry and conservation.

Nearly 300 people, led by NGO Peka Malaysia, gathered at Padang Merbok at 8.30am and began walking at 9.30am.

They carried placards and banners urging the government to save the environment and to stop deforestation and logging activities.

The memorandum was given to Deputy Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Tengku Zulpuri Shah Raja Puji. It contained several suggestions from the groups including a proposal for a constitutional amendment.

Peka president Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil called on the government to include specific clauses to protect the forests, saying there have not been any changes to such laws in the last 30 years.

“We need to make a change now,” she said. “What is happening to the Orang Asli community could happen to us if we do not take stringent action now.”

She said laws must be amended in the light of what she called the “alarming” exploitation of the country’s forests.

Deputy Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Tengku Zulpuri Shah Raja Puji receives the memorandum from the environmental groups.

“There is no use having meetings and discussions if we don’t make changes,” she added.

Lawyer Thiyagu Ganesan, representing Peka, said the NGO is calling for two amendments to be made.

“The first amendment is to insert a clause to ensure that everyone has the right to their health and well-being, and to help protect the environment through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and promote conservation,” he said.

“The other is for a clause where every state is obliged to protect and improve the environment, and safeguard the forest and wildlife.”

He added that the group wants the government to establish an expert council under the Forestry Act to provide advice on forestry matters.