Johor Exco Claims BN Degazetted Pulau Kukup

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Lawyers group slams Johor over island’s loss of national park status.

The Pakatan Harapan (PH) Johor state government has denied degazetting Pulau Kukup’s national park status, insisting that the decision was made by the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration.

Senior Johor state executive councillor Aminolhuda Hassan claimed that the current administration had no knowledge about the matter.

“We did not know about this (Pulau Kukup’s degazettement) because the approval came during an executive committee meeting by the previous (BN) administration in March.

Ben Tan

“We only knew about this after the decision was made and approved,” said Aminolhuda, who is also the Parit Yaani assemblyman, when met at the state assembly at the Sultan Ismail Building in Kota Iskandar today.

Malay Mail learnt that Pulau Kukup’s degazettement was approved by the previous BN government on March 7 this year, just before the May 9 general election.

The present PH state government was ostensibly not aware of the decision.

Earlier, Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim said Pulau Kukup will become “Sultanate Land” to protect it after the island was degazetted as a national park by the state government.

He claimed that the island, one of the few pristine wetlands in South-East Asia, will be “better protected” after its status is changed from national park to Sultanate land.

It is also the world’s second largest uninhabited mangrove island.

“In the past, several national parks were privatised but in Johor, His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar has a different vision.

“To better protect all national parks, Sultan Ibrahim decreed that all the national parks be changed to Sultanate land,” he tweeted.

Currently, Johor has six national parks, including Endau-Rompin Peta, Endau-Rompin Selai, Tanjung Piai, Pulau Kukup, Gunung Ledang, and Sultan Iskandar Marine Park.

Pulau Kukup measures approximately 647 hectares and is surrounded by some 800 hectares of mudflats.

The uninhabited island was gazetted as a national park 21 years ago and is touted as among the world’s protected wetlands. In January 2003, Pulau Kukup was granted the status of a ‘Wetland of International Importance’ or Ramsar Site, by the Geneva-based Ramsar Convention Bureau.

It was reported yesterday that Pulau Kukup, one of five Ramsar Sites in Malaysia, may cease having its Ramsar Site status after the Johor government cancelled its national park status.

Lawyers for Liberty has asked why the stripping of national park status was done “silently”, without any public announcement, until the gazette was leaked online.

Calling the news shocking and disappointing, the group’s adviser N Surendran said the revocation of Pulau Kukup’s national park status was tantamount to the destruction of a site “harbouring unparalleled ecological treasures”.

Shafwan Zaidon

He also asked who will profit from the degazettement and whether the state intends to develop the area.

He also called on the Prime Minister to use federal powers to urgently intervene and save Pulau Kukup.

According to the Johor National Parks Corporation website, Pulau Kukup plays host to endangered animals such as the flying fox, smooth-coated otter, bearded pig and long-tailed macaque.

Malaysiakini reported yesterday that the decision to de-gazette Pulau Kukup as a national park was made during a state executive committee meeting on September 24, with the gazette of the decision published on October 25.

A copy of the gazette was leaked online and caused concern among some Malaysians, especially environmentalists, as there had been no engagement with stakeholders prior to the decision.