Minister blames news portal’s headline blunder for 600,000ha issue

By Nigel Edgar

KUCHING, May 27: Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Datuk Salahuddin Ayub today clarified that a national online news portal made an error in the headline of a story on his statement last night.

He said the misunderstanding had been cleared with Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg during a courtesy call earlier today, and that the headline had since been corrected.

Salahuddin explained that the 600,000 hectares (ha) of land was the total area of non-replanted oil palm estates in Sarawak, and not about giving it to the federal government.

“The heading has been corrected. What I meant in my statement reported yesterday was that the Sarawak government is willing to collaborate with the federal government to plant cash crops for export.

“Just now (during a closed-door meeting) Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg agreed to use 2,000 acres out of the 600,000ha for a collaboration between the federal and state government to plant cash crops,” Salahuddin explained, adding that the plot is located in Lingga, Sri Aman.

Salahuddin (left) and Abang Johari exchange greetings during a courtesy call by the former at Wisma Bapa Malaysia this afternoon (May 27. 2019).
Salahuddin (right) clarifying that the header by the national online news portal was an error, and has been corrected. Seated left is Sagah.

He pointed out that the 2,000 acres were not given to the federal government but for both governments to collaborate in the cash crop planting initiative.

Salahuddin said the collaboration would begin as soon as possible after he reports to Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) chairman Tun Daim Zainuddin that the Sarawak government had agreed to it.

“I will form a joint committee between my ministry and Sarawak’s Ministry of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development to discuss this further and coordinate this initiative.

“As for the type of cash crop, it will depend on the soil profiling and study done by this proposed committee with the involvement of the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi),” he said.

Meanwhile, Assistant Minister of Native Land Development Datuk Roland Sagah Wee Inn confirmed that 2,000 acres of land in Lingga, Sri Aman, had been put aside for this effort for a while already.

He also clarified that the land would not be given to the federal government.

“The federal ministry is interested to collaborate with us (state government), so we let them use the 2,000 acres, not give to them,” Sagah said. — DayakDaily