KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 26 — The federal government is considering enacting a new law that will empower the Natural Resources and Environment Minister to gazette certain forests, jungles and open land for protection on account of their heritage and historical value.
Its minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar told New Straits Times in an interview published today that his ministry has been working with Khazanah Nasional and the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club for the past eight months to come up with a draft law that he hopes to enforce by next year.
“We are now in the process of preparing this law for this purpose; we are talking to various stakeholders. It will then come to our ministry for review and be sent to the Attorney-General’s Chambers to determine whether it can be brought to Parliament or not.
“If the AG passes it, we are hoping that the law can be enforced by 2018,” Wan Junaidi was quoted saying.
He said the working committee is studying similar land heritage modules used by the UK, the US, Australia and New Zealand.
Wan Junaidi explained that existing heritage laws come under the Tourism and Culture Ministry, which only recognises buildings for gazettement.
The new law would empower his ministry to gazette a land, which Wan Junaidi pointed out falls under a state government’s control, and to declare it as a heritage site.
“Open spaces and land belong to the state, for example, Fraser’s Hill. The state needs to give consent whether to gazette it or not.
“If they do not agree, then there is nothing we can do about it. It is clearly written in the Constitution,” he was quoted saying.
He pointed out that currently the federal government can only “suggest” a location it feels requires protection to the state government, but added that even if the state then gazettes the land, it can also later degazette the area as well.
The minister related that he had been previously told by Pahang Forestry director Datuk Mohd Paiz Kamaruzaman that the area approved for land clearing and mining was not in the primary forest reserve, but on state government land and had been licensed for mining.
“The question now is whether it is proper to mine in the area? That decision is controlled by the state,” Wan Junaidi was quoted saying.
The minister expressed confidence that the proposed legislation will be supported by Barisan Nasional and Opposition lawmakers as well as the public.