One too many gaffes by Perak MB

From the time he entered office, in May 2018, Perak Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu’s tenure has been plagued with ridicule and inconsistency.

Despite his gaffes, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has expressed satisfaction with the MB’s performance. However, Faizal went overboard with his recent statement that there was no such thing as Orang Asli “tanah adat”. That proved to be the last straw for many people.

As the head of the Perak government, he has access to some of the best legal brains in the state. He could contact the attorney-general’s office to sort out any technical matters or doubts. However, the statements issued from his office suggest that he is either surrounded by “yes-men” or that he has ignored his advisers.

When he first became MB, he horrified Perakians with his timid response towards a group of unruly Muslim NGOs. They had stormed into a grocery store in Manjoi, Ipoh, to demand the removal of alcoholic drinks. Their actions alarmed many businessmen. Many wondered if these thugs might next descend on their shops and scare away customers in a multiracial society.

In June, Faizal purchased a fleet of 16 new Toyota Camrys for members in his state executive council. This caused a public backlash because he had previously claimed that the state was short of money.

Last month, a group of vegetable farmers in Chemor was told to vacate state land which they had been cultivating for five decades. The MB had awarded their land to the Perak football team as a reward for beating Terengganu in 2018.

Last week, the MB rolled out a programme to provide jobs for the retired and elderly. He said they could work as nannies, but many grandparents are already looking after their own grandchildren.

He said they could also grow vegetables for sale, without realising that many of them are now living in apartment blocks.

He has ignored the hundreds of thousands of younger Perakians, who have sought jobs in Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Many have also fled overseas because the local government does not know how to attract investors and retain the best workers.

Local and foreign tourists flock to Perak for its natural beauty, from the limestone hills and jungles to the seas. Despite that, the state has issued quarrying permits to blast the rocks and flatten the hills. Many important cave systems have been destroyed to provide materials for the cement industry.

The mining of sand in the seas off the coast of Perak will add to coastal erosion and threaten the fish, crustaceans and turtle-breeding areas. The fishermen have voiced their alarm. but their environmental concerns have been brushed aside.

We regularly read in the papers that the jungles are being cleared for monoculture. Tourists come to enjoy our rich diversity of plant and animal life, but industries like logging and mining pollute the rivers and waterways. The MB appears to have ignored all these important considerations.

A field officer of the Perak chapter of Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) has expressed alarm that the state had issued permits to two companies to clear an environmentally-sensitive area in the jungles of northern Perak. The jungle will be logged before it is replanted with rubber.

The previous week, a sickly tiger was caught in Terengganu. The beast, which was suffering from canine distemper, was transported to the National Wildlife Rescue Centre in Sungkai, Perak, to be nursed back to health, before it could be released back into the jungle. Sadly, the tiger died the following day.

When man encroaches into the jungles and clears the forests to practise monoculture, which is the planting of just one type of crop, such as oil palm or rubber, animals die.

At best, the animals will migrate deeper into the jungle. The tigers and elephants then have to share the small space with the other displaced animals. When there is too little space for them, they come out to forage in farmers’ orchards and kill the goats or chickens in their smallholdings.

Animals and many species of plants are not the only ones which suffer from the clearing of the rainforests. The Orang Asli, the true Bumiputeras, have found that their ancestral lands have been invaded by people who are alien to their beliefs and customs.

When the MB dismissed the rights of the Orang Asli to their ancestral land, he showed his ignorance of the laws of the land and what the courts have decided in their favour.

The combined efforts of Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P Waytha Moorthy and Attorney-General Tommy Thomas may be too late to save the MB.

So, will Mahathir remove this MB and replace him with a more competent Pakatan Harapan candidate?

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.