Topic: Corruption and Environmental Governance
Related news: https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/336682
Coverage by: The Malaysian Insight
THE Selangor government must justify its stubbornness in de-gazetting the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve (KLNFR) despite massive public outcry, the Centre to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4) said today.
Otherwise, the corruption watchdog said, the public is left to suspect the interference of “higher powers” in the state government.
The state needs to explain how it could also disregard the unanimous vote in November by state legislators to protect one of the last remaining peat swamp forests in southern Selangor, it added.
“What would lead an elected government to disregard public opinion and risk public outrage?
“We know that the wages of secrecy are often corruption, and we know that in secrecy, errors detected will flourish and subvert.”
The reserve was de-gazetted in May without any publicity and only came to light during the Selangor assembly session last week.
C4 said the state government must explain the decision-making process and the reasons why the issue was kept secret for three months.
As part of this explanation, the state should reveal how and why the developer, Gabungan Indah Sdn Bhd, was selected, as well as who benefits and loses from the proposed development of the forest reserve.
Citing the Companies Commission of Malaysia, C4 said Gabungan Indah must be scrutinised as the company and its owner, Vibrantscape Sdn Bhd, are shell companies with only RM1 paid-up capital and were only incorporated in December last year.
The owner of Vibrantscape is Perdana Parkcity, the developer of Desa Parkcity in Kuala Lumpur.
“Private entities that stand to benefit from this de-gazettement must be selected based on merit in a transparent manner with no undue influence over government procedures,” C4 said.
The state government must also disclose technical reports that justify that the benefits of developing the forest outweigh the cost of de-gazetting it.
This is especially since the state had received more than 45,000 objections to the de-gazettement and more than 130,000 signatures in a petition, as well as nearly 1,500 protest emails to assemblymen.
“If the benefits of the development outweigh the costs of de-gazettement, why are the technical reports not made available to allay public fears?
“This is a clear case of privatising profits and socialising costs. We demand answers on the real hidden hands behind this venture,” C4 said.
The Selangor government initially planned to de-gazette 992ha of the forest reserve – including Orang Asli settlements – but decided to reduce the area to 537ha due to fierce public objections.
It is categorised as an environmental sensitive area (ESA) Rank 1 in the national physical plan (no development, agriculture or logging), and also a disaster risk area, as a peat swamp in the Selangor Structure Plan 2035.
The Kuala Langat Local Plan 2030 also categorised the reserve as a zone where development is prohibited.
Yesterday, Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari was summoned by his party president Anwar Ibrahim for a briefing on the controversial plan.
In last November’s vote in the Selangor assembly, Amirudin as well as the exco also supported the vote to not to de-gazette the forest reserve. – September 1, 2021.