Better off for Selangor Govt to engage NGOs to resolve Bukit Cherakah issue – Ronnie Liu

Sg Pelek assemblyman Ronnie Liu (3rd left) with heads of NGOs who have been fighting to save any more development in the Bukit Cherakah Forest Reserve. From right: PEKA President Damien Thaman Divean, Secretary of Otai Reformasi Abdul Razak Ismail and SACF committee member Adli Maharon. On extreme left is PSM activist Suresh Kumar.

Sg Pelek state assemblyman Ronnie Liu reasons out why there could be an out-of-court solution for the Bukit Cherakah issue.

SHAH ALAM, Aug 14 – The Selangor state government will be better off engaging the non-governmental organisations (NGOs), who are seeking to stop development in the Bukit Cherakah Forest Reserve, rather than going into any future legal tussle with them, said Sg Pelek State Assemblyman Ronnie Liu.

Referring to the recent Shah Alam High Court decision to allow the application by two environmental groups to temporarily stay the Selangor state government’s plan to proceed with the degazettement of parts of the forest reserve, Liu said this was a temporary “victory” as the state has not said that it would not appeal.

The stay order was issued by judge Shahnaz Sulaiman pending the hearing of a judicial review leave application on Sept 28. The Shah Alam Community Forest Society (SACF) and Khazanah Alam Malaysia (PEKA) are seeking leave to commence the judicial review to overturn the degazettement.

If the state government does appeal, then it “would be one long battle with the people” and this should be avoided, Liu, who was recently invited to visit the area by the NGOs, said.

“What would be better is for the state government to discuss with the NGOs and other interested citizens to find an amicable solution to the issue,” he told Weekly Echo during his visit to the site, where he met the President of PEKA, Damien Thaman Divean, who is the plaintiff in the Bukit Cherakah Judicial Review case as well as SACF committee member Adli Maharon, Secretary of Otai Reformasi Abdul Razak Ismail and PSM activist Suresh Kumar.

Ronnie, who earned some scathing remarks from fellow assemblyman, specifically Exco members, during the recent Selangor State Assembly sitting where he suggested the state government engage with the NGOs to resolve the issue, gave his views on why the forest reserve should be saved.

“It is a beautiful forest reserve with huge trees, lakes as well as even some endangered animals like tapir. It will be best to keep it. The people of Shah Alam should not lose it.”

If there are plans for property development, the houses could be built elsewhere, he said, adding that there were many other factors that needed to be considered against developing the area.

Besides the obvious environment-related benefits and its popularity as a hikers’ spot in the area, the elevated hill area is also a buffer and acts as a “sponge” that can absorb water during heavy rains and prevent any future floods in the surrounding lower-lying areas, he said.

On the potential problem cited by the state government that it would have to compensate the companies that have already been given parts of the forest reserve land if it does not go ahead with the development, Liu said that while he did not know the full list of companies, two of them were the state owned PKNS and MBSA.

“At least, the state government can advise PKNS and MBSA not to keep these parts of the land. The Menteri Besar himself is the chairman of PKNS anyway…the forest can be returned to the people.”

SACF committee member Adli Maharon raised the issue of recent floods in Shah Alam, saying rampant development around the area could be a contributing factor to the floods.

SACF committee member Adli Maharon, meanwhile said saving the forest reserve would also provide more protection against any future floodings in the Setia Alam area.

The area, which had never seen floods before, faced heavy floods during December last year and early this year, he said.

“Even the highways were flooded, and this can be traced to rampant developments in the area,” he said.

Apart from providing a spot for nature lovers, hikers, the forest reserve is also provides a research site for academicians, botanists and others to carry out their studies, Adli said.

On Aug 4, PEKA and SACF filed an application for a judicial review to challenge the decision of the Selangor Government, the State Executive Council, the Director of the State Forestry Department and the Petaling Land and Minerals Department to degazette 406 hectares of land in the forest reserve.