KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 9-- The Association for the Protection of Natural Heritage of Malaysia (PEKA) have urged the government to amend the Federal Constitution relating to forestry and the National Forestry Act 1984 (Act 313) to ensure that the nation’s forests can be protected and to guarantee its sustainable development.
Its president, Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said the current provisions were out-dated and could not tackle the current developments over the issues of offences towards nature.
“The last amendment was only made in 1993. The nation’s natural treasures are fast disappearing and we as human beings entrusted by God as the custodians of the world will receive our just deserts if we do not take the initiative to protect his gift. The law must uphold justice to nature,” she told Bernama.
Shariffa Sabrina said the powers of the authorities in the states were also very broad under the existing laws.
Therefore, she said, it was imperative that the powers of the state authorities were amended and balanced to safeguard the sustainability of the environment which was currently being more threatened.
“It is also hoped that the proposed amendments should able to address two key issues in the existing act, namely the penalties that are out-dated and are no longer relevant for the present time to punish environmental offenders.
“This must be accepted to tackle the rampant issue of illegal logging. Through the amendment proposals we can send a moral message to the people in the country that offences to the environmental treasures are serious crimes and should not be viewed lightly,” she stressed.
She suggested that environmental offenders be fined up to RM10 million and imprisoned from five to 30 years.
In addition, Shariffa Sabrina also suggested that the Federal government compensated the state governments which earned revenues from logging activities.
“For example, if a state is collecting RM100 million a year from logging revenues, then the federal government should compensate the state so that it will no longer carry out logging activities,” she said.
She said this could be done as a temporary measure until the amendments to the forestry act could be implemented.
Meanwhile, she said, a memorandum for the proposed amendments had been submitted to the government's representative in July, and she hoped that they will be considered in the coming Budget to ensure the sustainability of the nation’s environment.