Govt working to tighten forestry laws, says deputy minister

At present, states have full power of enforcement and the power to give permits for activities such as logging.

PETALING JAYA: The government claims it is working to tighten forest conservation laws and considering suggestions from NGOs for the purpose.

Tengku Zulpuri Shah Raja Puji, the deputy minister of water, land and natural resources, told FMT the ministry’s officials were in the midst of discussions and he hoped the process would be fast enough to enable the presentation of relevant bills at the Dewan Rakyat’s next sitting.

“If not, we will present them by early next year,” he said.

“We have to take the suggested amendments to the attorney-general’s office first. We will also get feedback from the NGOs.”

Recently, Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka) president Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil complained that there had been no changes to forest protection laws for 30 years.

Peka has asked the government to introduce legislative and other measures to prevent pollution and promote conservation.

It is calling for the insertion, in one of the relevant laws, of a clause that gives recognition to the public’s right to health and another clause requiring every state to protect and improve the environment and safeguard forests and wildlife.

It has also asked for the establishment of an advisory council of experts under the Forestry Act.

Tengku Zulpuri.

Tengku Zulpuri said these were some of the suggestions his ministry was considering.

Among the other amendments being considered, he added, was one that would reduce limits on the federal government’s power in some areas.

“There is still some separation of powers between the federal government and the state authorities,” he said.

“In forestry matters, the state has full power of enforcement and the power to give permits for logging and such. The federal government can only make policy and monitor. If any report on infringements is made, we can only take note and tell the state to act.

“One of the changes we want to propose is for the federal government to have some power to ensure better cooperation from the states. If the states agree, then it is good for our forests.”

He also said his ministry planned to make it mandatory for every state to conduct public hearings, as is being done by the Selangor government.

However, he added that the ministry would need to reach agreements with the states. “If the states do not agree, there is nothing we can do.”