Flood affected villagers in Baling urge govt to set up RCI
Villagers affected by the flood in Kupang, Baling have urged the government to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to investigate the tragedy in Kampung Iboi on July 4, which claimed three lives and damaged more than 1,000 houses.
They also insisted that all paperwork, approval letters, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports, agreements, logging results for private developers and the state, and reports from agencies involved be made public.
Their spokesperson Hamirudin Hasan said the villagers and flood victims have the right to know all the facts because they are the ones who have suffered from development.
“We do not reject forest development and logging, because we understand that it is also one of the sources of money for government that will eventually return to the people. But let the development that is carried out be sustainable and take care of the natural ecosystem and society.
“We are against all development whose results are only for those who are selected, while the people and the community suffer.
“We strongly urge the experts who have issued reports on the cause of floods to guarantee in the future to properly investigate before issuing reports that can mislead the public,” Hamirudin said during the “Liberating Gunung Inas” gathering today.
The gathering which ended at 5pm aims to present a memorandum to state and federal governments.
Representatives from Kampung Iboi, Kampung Bukit Iboi, Kampung Bendang Bechah, Kampung Hangus, Kampung Tanjung, Kampung Sadek. Kampung Kuala Kuang, Kampung Sineyek, Pekan Kupang, Kampung Masjid, Iboi, Kampung Bok Bak, Kampung Pisang, Taman Mesra Kupang and Kampung Jerai attended the event.
Be proactive and transparent
The villagers also urged the government to completely stop the cultivation of the Musang King durian farm project and replace it with a tree species allowed by the Forestry Department.
They also want the Forestry Department, together with the Environment Department, to be more proactive and transparent in monitoring and permitting the development of the Gunung Inas forest reserve.
They added that Gunung Inas is a catchment area and the source of drinking water for several villagers and the catchment area must always be protected without any compromise.
Hamirudin said they will hand over the memorandum to Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, Baling MP Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim and Bayu, Kupang and Kuala Ketil state assemblypersons.
“We want the government to return the status of the Musang King durian farm to the Gunung Inas permanent forest reserve. This is to ensure that the natural balance in the settlement area remains guaranteed,” he added.
Hamirudin said they also want the government to stop all forest development in areas with slopes exceeding 25 degrees and heights exceeding 1,000 feet. This is because 70 percent of the mountainous area is a sloped area.
The buffer zone of the river basin and catchment area for the watershed must be fully protected from any interference by human hands in the name of development, Hamirudin said.
He added that the villagers also want the government to expedite the repair of infrastructure that has collapsed and been severely damaged as a result of flood debris such as bridges, roads, drains, clean water sources and residents' sewage systems.
“Upgrade the water catchment ponds to guarantee cleaner and safer water facilities for the villagers. Since the logging project and the planting of Musang King durian, the residents have had a very dirty water supply that is not suitable for their daily use. Gazette the water catchment area to ensure that no logging will be carried out in the future.
“We also urge the state government to immediately approve the grant of permanent title to the owners of agricultural land in compartment 8 which has been delayed for so long, as promised by the state government since 2012,” he said.
Hamirudin added that these lands have been cultivated by the villagers for more than 60 years but have not yet received the status of permanent ownership by the state government.
He said the landowners here have spent a lot of money to measure in detail the lands that have been cultivated with the consent of the Kedah Forestry Department in 2012 but the state government has yet to solve this matter.
“We want the Forestry Department to react on the matter but it continues to take a silent approach and let go of what has happened. Therefore, we would like to demand that this matter be resolved immediately.”