FB Posts Protesting Degazettement of Kuala Langat Forest Reserve “Disappear”

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Selangor MB Amirudin chides Xavier Jayakumar for opposing degazetting of Kuala Langat forest reserve.

Shafwan Zaidon

Facebook posts protesting the degazettement of the Kuala Langat (North) Forest Reserve (KLFNR) have mysteriously disappeared over the past week, leading to suspicions of a conspiracy

Many social media users have complained in the comment section of Facebook after their posts with links to a petition on change.org to fight against the deforestation of the peat swamp forest reserve were removed for allegedly violating community standards on spam.

A check on the Cyberjaya Info Facebook page, which had shared the link to the petition, saw many sharing screenshots of Facebook’s ban on their postings of the same issue.

The petition was started by Global Environment Centre (GEC), a non-profit environmental NGO based in Malaysia, and this was later shared by Cyberjaya Info.

The online petition titled “Save Kuala Langat Forest Reserve” is directed to the Selangor Forestry Department director Mohd Ridzuwan Endot, with more than 16,000 signatures already been recorded.

On its Facebook page, the administrator of Cyberjaya Info accused Facebook of deleting its initial post on the issue.

Most of those whose posts were deleted feel that there seems to be a concerted effort to track down and report these posts as spam.

An attempt to silence these protests perhaps, they say.

Speaking out against the degazettement of KLFNR, GEC highlighted the importance of the forest reserve as a peat swamp forest.

It noted that the area was the habitat for the Malayan sun bear, Selangor pygmy flying squirrel and the Langat red fighting fish. It also contained meranti bakau trees.

Early this month, the Selangor Forestry Department published a notice of the proposed degazettement in newspapers and asked stakeholders in the area to state their objections within a 30-day period.

It was reported that there are seven gazetted Orang Asli villages in the area, namely Kampung Orang Asli Pulau Kempas, Bukit Cheeding, Bukit Kecil, Bukit Perah, Busut Baru, Tanjung Rabok and Bukit Kamandol.

The report stated that the settlements are part of a bigger tract of land which was previously gazetted as customary land in 1927.

Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar has been reported as objecting to the proposed degazetting of 930 hectares within the KLFNR area.

Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka) president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil, an outspoken environmental activist, wants the KLNFR degazettement stopped.

She added that while her Facebook posts were not taken down, she was informed that many others had faced such a predicament.

Shariffa said that the KLFNR must be preserved. “The area involved is the only forested area in existence in the Kuala Langat district, and is the green lung of the area and its surrounding vicinity, as well as the state of Selangor, which has only 32 per cent of areas covered with forests.

Faihan Ghani/The Star

“It is clear that the degazetting of the forest reserve and the issuance of the land grant is against public interest, and in fact, is merely for the interest and profitability of certain people, only,” she was quoted as saying.

Malay Mail reported that another activist said the move to degazette the KLFNR could also affect Malaysia’s reforestation efforts.

“If Malaysia were to apply for financing from foreign countries for reforestation, they just may say to us, ‘You are unable to save your own forests and yet you’re asking for funding to replant?’ We will look very bad,” he said.

At the end of the 30-day objection period, a townhall session will be chaired by Hee Loy Sian, the Selangor Environment, Green Technology, Science, Technology and Innovation and Consumer Affairs committee chairman.

This is set to take place in Banting at the end of March.

Meanwhile, Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari has criticised Xavier for his opposition to the state’s plan to degazette the KLFNR.

Speaking at a press conference in Shah Alam yesterday, Amirudin said that Xavier – in his capacity as water, land and natural resources minister as well as Kuala Langat MP – ought to have known about the proposal.

“I think the minister and MP (Xavier) knows. Because the minister and MP is very familiar and involved with the process of gazetting forests.

“I have gazetted many forest areas for water assets owned by PAAB (Pengurusan Aset Air Berhad, an agency under Xavier’s ministry). The Selangor Forestry Department and Land District Office have transferred hundreds of acres to them.

“So, when rebuke comes along saying this (proposal) is contrary to the wishes of the state and federal governments to maintain the number of forest reserves (in the country), I feel that the allegation is very false and deviates from the truth.

Bernama

“Those who oppose this proposal do not realise they are oblivious and have misunderstood the truth,” Amirudin added.

Xavier was previously reported saying that he was firmly against the degazettement of the forest reserve, claiming it sent the wrong message as state governments ought to try to increase forest cover, not reduce it.

He also urged the state government to reconsider the move.

Mohd Sahar Misni/The Star

“We should not be destroying green lungs for development, what more an area that has been specially gazetted since 1927,” he said.

Yesterday, Amirudin explained that the state government had proposed to degazette the forest reserve as almost half of the trees there had “degraded” and the area was no longer ecologically valuable.

The East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) was also set to run through the area, he added.

The menteri besar contended that the move to degazette the KLFNR would not affect any Orang Asli settlements and noted that other forests in the state were being considered as new forest reserves to make up for the degazettement.

Aside from Xavier, Cabinet Minister P Waythmoorthy is also opposed to the move.