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Warisan’s nod on proposed coal plant questionable

25th September, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: Sabahans are now beginning to question the ulterior motive behind the reconsidering of the use of coal for energy in the State.

“There are better options using renewable energy. We have abundant gas and biomass from the massive oil palm plantation sector that should be utilized. Why coal?” questioned STAR President Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan in a statement Monday. “What could be the motive of reconsidering coal? Gold, perhaps. Not forgetting the valuable timber that sits atop.”

On Malaysia Day, Sabahans were appalled by the revelation that a suggestion by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to source coal from east Malaysia could have been allowed to proceed at all even though to the “talking stage”.

Sabahans are deeply dismayed to learn that the issue has been resurrected by the new Federal and State leaders.

Shafie should have immediately shot down the suggestion and it should not have even gone to the talking stage when it was raised by Mahathir during the Prime Minister’s recent visit to Sabah for the Malaysia Day celebration, said Jeffrey who is also Keningau MP.

To add to the growing discontentment of Sabahans, Shafie when speaking to reporters at a function on Saturday welcomed the Prime Minister’s proposal, even going on to say that the proposal would have an impact not only for Sabah, but on the country as a whole.

“Has Shafie forgotten that Sabahans were up in arms to voice their objections to the coal-fired power plant project in Sabah nearly a decade back?”

“Even a member of Shafie’s State Cabinet has indicated disagreement to using coal to generate electricity.”

A day after Shafie issued the statement welcoming the proposal, Health and People’s Wellbeing Minister Stephen Wong Tien Fatt said, “coal is not one of the best alternatives because it will have a bad effect on the ecosystem in Sabah”. Stephen Wong was among those at the forefront of the campaigns against the use of coal powered plant in Sabah more than 10 years ago.

“Perhaps Shafie should sit down with Wong and let the latter share the details of the negative effects on long term use of coal and coal fired plants,” he added.

Contrary to the previous Barisan Nasional state government under chief minister Tan Sri Musa Haji Aman which had stood firm with its decision in not allowing coal mining in Sabah and the then Federal Government understood that while Sabah needed to build up the power supply in Sabah, it could not be done at the expense of Sabahans’ welfare and the environment.

During his visit to Sabah on Sep 16, Mahathir said that the government would not pursue nuclear energy but was considering locally-sourced fossil fuel like coal, saying more can be done with it.

The Prime Minister said that the country had a lot of coal resources in Sabah and Sarawak which could be exploited, instead of continuing importing coal from neighbouring countries.

Sabahans were quickly up in arms over the statement and rejected the idea of mining here to subsidise energy to west Malaysia when the state is still suffering from lack of infrastructure including water and electricity supply in rural areas.

“Sabah spent years fighting against the idea of coal, back in the late 1990s, then again from 2007 to 2011. Civil society in Sabah have repeatedly rejected the idea of coal energy, whether in terms of mining or in power plant,” Non-governmental organisation HUTAN officer Harjinder Kler was quoted as saying.

Sabah Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) president Lanash Thanda said that any decision to introduce major development projects to the state should go through the rule of law and consult the people and environmental concerns.

WWF-Malaysia said “in the long term, the use of coal and coal-fired plants will bring with it implications that will undermine the Malaysian Government’s commitment to the Paris Agreement of holding temperature increase to below 2 degree Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”

WWF-Malaysia was part of the Green SURF (Sabah Unite to Re-Power the Future) coalition in 2009 which successfully stopped the coal power plant project in Sabah.

Environmentally sensitive Maliau Basin conservation area of about 588sq kms – more than twice the size of Penang Island – includes a 20ha lake Linumunsut and the 1,600m Lutong peak was designated a Cultural Heritage site in 1999.

Described as one of the few remaining untouched natural habitats in the world, Maliau Basin is also home to more than 70 mammal species including the protected Sumatran rhino, the Bornean pygmy elephant, clouded leopard, proboscis monkey, and over 2,000 bird and plant species.

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