KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 20 – The Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah’s comments at a ceremony in Istana Negara yesterday may be an indicator of his displeasure with the recent announcement by the Pakatan Harapan government on the lifting of a moratorium on bauxite mining in Pahang.
The King, who was sworn in as the Sultan of Pahang last month before being appointed the 16th Agong by his fellow rulers, called for all Malaysians to be responsible in preserving the assets available in the national environment.
“Lately, various types of pollution and destruction to the environment had cropped up due to the attitude and weaknesses of the people themselves. We frequently forget that the environment is a major component needed for comfortable living.
“Thus, I call upon every strata of society, regardless of race or religion, to unite in preserving and looking after the environment,” Sultan Abdullah was quoted as saying by Bernama.
He said this following the conferment of Federal Territory Honours, Awards and Medals to 200 recipients in conjunction with Federal Territory Day 2019 at the Istana Negara.
Permaisuri Agong against bauxite mining
In January 2016, the current Permaisuri Agong, Tuanku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandar had reportedly shared on her Instagram account multiple newspaper clippings on the bauxite mining issue, urging the public to “continue the fight”.
“I have been frothing in the mouth speaking about this. I too have a home in Pantai Balok and the beach in front of our home is now red,” the then Crown Princess of Pahang wrote on Instagram.
Tuanku Azizah, is the third daughter of the late Sultan Iskandar of Johor, and sister to the current Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim. She married Sultan Abdullah in 1986 and the couple have six children.
Minister inspects mining sites before lifting moratorium
It was reported on Monday that the government had lifted the moratorium on bauxite mining with effect from April.
The announcement was made by Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar, after he inspected several mining sites in Kuantan and the stockpile in Kuantan Port.
Pahang Mining Operators Association vice-president Datuk Yap Soon Huat described the announcement “as good news to the bauxite mining industry”, the New Straits Times reported.
The moratorium was first imposed on January 15, 2016, by former natural resources and environment minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, due to serious environmental effects that resulted from the mining activities and run-offs from unsecured stockpiles.
Environmentalists had reported in the months prior to the moratorioum that contaminated water sources had caused roads, rivers and coastal waters to turn red, and severely impacted local communities.
Fuziah’s bauxite mining flip flop
Then opposition leaders, especially Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh, had strongly opposed the bauxite mining activities and was reported as saying in November 2015 that four rivers in the district had been polluted, with the water “containing high magnesium level”.
Interestingly, Fuziah, who is now a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, took a different stand just a year later, releasing a statement in December 2016 that called for the lifting of the moratorium.
She told the then BN govermnent that it was possible to allow bauxite mining to continue as long as disused mines were rehabilitated and strict standard operating procedures were enforced.
Fuziah explained that the ban on bauxite mining would increase the possibility of erosion at the mines.
“As long as these mines are not cleaned up and rehabilitated, our lives are at risk.
“If the ministry is sincere about resolving the bauxite mining crisis in Pahang, then it should clean up the mining waste in the state.
“Clean up the bauxite waste via a third party that does not have a vested interest in the bauxite industry.”
Fuziah rebukes fellow PKR leader, Xavier
The moratorium was renewed every three months by the previous Barisan Nasional federal government and this continued after PH took over Putrajaya, with the last extension announced last December for a further three months until March 31, 2019.
On the lifting of the moratorium now by her own government, Fuziah was reported as saying she was not happy with her fellow PKR lawmaker, Xavier, for not being transparent on the new standard operating procedure (SOP) for the bauxite mining industry.
Wong Tack, DAP silent on lifting of moratorium
Another strong opponent of bauxite mining in 2015 was Bentong MP Wong Tack, who as the leader of Himpunan Hijau had threatened to rally supporters for a mass campaign to “picket and protest” against the ongoing mining activities.
Wong Tack and Fuziah Salleh were also highly vocal against the rare earth refining operations at the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Kuantan.
He had also participated in a Red2Green walk from Kuantan to the Parliament building in Kuala Lumpur, in 2016 in protest against the bauxite mining.
Wong Tack, who first stood on a DAP ticket for the Bentong parliamentary seat in the 13th general election in May 2013, has been silent so far on the bauxite mining issue following the government’s announcement.
The same goes for other leaders in DAP, the party with the second largest number of lawmakers in the ruling coalition, who decided to retain the environmental activist as their candidate in GE14 despite other top party leaders who were in line to take on incumbent, former MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.