Kelantan orders Forestry Dept to submit report after blockade

GEORGE TOWN: Kelantan has ordered the state's Forestry Department to submit a report on allegations that logging and mining have adversely affected the land used by the Orang Asli to sustain themselves.

Deputy Mentri Besar Datuk Paduka Nik Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah said the forestry department and the Kelantan Department of Environment (DOE) are tasked with ensuring logging and mining companies adhere to regulations.

He expressed surprise that the Orang Asli had claimed that their land is under threat, as all projects in Gua Musang require close supervision by the authorities, especially on land clearing.

"Action will be taken against those who pollute the land," Nik Amar said.

About 500 Orang Asli of the Temiar ethnic group have erected blockades in three locations to prevent loggers and miners from entering their work areas in Gua Musang.

An Orang Asli activist said the only way to change the state economic policies in Kelantan is by setting up long-term blockades at roads used by loggers and miners.

Mustafa Along, who chairs the Kelantan Orang Asli Network, said the blockades this year will succeed unlike previous attempts, as political parties need to tread carefully on the issue with the 14th General Election drawing near.

According to veteran Kelantan politician Wan Abdul Rahim Wan Abdullah, logging, mining and plantations are the main drivers of the state's economy.

"Kelantan needs to leapfrog if it wants to move away from agrarian activities," he said.

The Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Centre) has dispatched aid in the form of generators and food to some 500 Orang Asli who are manning the blockades at Chawas, Tohoi and Kuala Wok.

"It is quite clear that decades of land clearing has resulted in a negative impact on the Orang Asli community," C4 Centre's northern region coordinator K. Sudhagaran Stanley Singh said.

"They are part of our heritage and we should find ways to preserve their way of life and to co-exist with them."

He said instead of felling trees, the state should gazette the area as an Eco Tourism Park, and with the help of the Orang Asli, they can tap the tourism value in herbal medicine, botany, traditional hunting and trekking.

The blockade has attracted attention of the federal government, who recently sent Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim to visit the community at the blockade sites.