Sabah deputy chief minister says coal mining only at ‘talking stage’ now

Julia Chan
Two days ago, after a visit to Sabah, Dr 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. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KOTA KINABALU, Sept 20 ― A suggestion by the prime minister to source coal from east Malaysia is only being discussed currently, Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew said today.

Liew who is also Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister said that the matter was discussed between Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, but declined to elaborate.

“It’s still at the talking stage. Nothing to discuss. He was discussing this with the chief minister so this is still only at talking stage. Not implementing yet,” she said.

When asked where were the proposed sites to start mining were, Liew declined to comment.

Two days ago, after a visit to Sabah, Dr 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 have been 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.

Non-governmental organisation HUTAN officer Harjinder Kler said that coal is an “unacceptable dirty fuel” that is no longer viable when there are now better and cleaner alternatives.

“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.

“When a Federal Minister arrogantly asked if we want “monkey or gold” referring to the coal deposits under Maliau Basin, we said we want the monkeys. We will not take 200 steps backwards, we’ll keep our monkeys and remind the PM that he should not look at East Malaysia and only think of us as resource to exploit,” she said.

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.

“Since 2014 there has been a huge breakdown of rule of law n due process especially on government linked projects. So now when major decisions like mining for coal plants and bringing in huge projects that are water and energy intensive without righting the rule of law and due process that was promised to us defeats the purpose.

“SEPA wants this huge problem fixed first before talking about more government linked projects that are more detrimental to the Sabahan public.

“This looks like another example of a federal government decision made without the input of Sabahans. Looks like promises made on Malaysia Day of Sabah having self-determination on our resources is short lived,” she said, adding that state-introduced industries also needed to go through due environmental and social economic scrutinisation.

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