Penang Forum’s response to Berita Harian report on ‘smaller’ Penang forests

Penang Forum’s has issued an official response to a Berita Harian online’s report on that forests in Penang have allegedly become smaller (“Hutan di Pulau Pinang didakwa semakin kecil”).

Penang Forum wishes to respond to an article by Berita Harian (published online via BH Online on 31 October 2016), which states that Penang Forum made a claim that “natural forested areas in the state are on the decrease and are now only 7.4 per cent of the state’s landmass”.

The article also went a step further to single out Penang Forum representative Dato Dr Sharom Ahmat, who was the moderator during the Penang Hill’s Watch (PHW) launch. The daily claimed that Sharom had alleged that the acreage of forests on the state had decreased as a result of unplanned development and widespread hill clearing activity, which the DAP state government had failed to be monitor.

Penang Forum would like to state that these allegations are baseless and unfounded and a distortion of the actual narrative that Penang Forum had presented through its representatives during the Penang Hills Watch Launch.

Responding to the first allegation that forested areas are on the decrease in Penang and now only cover 7.4 per cent of the state land mass, Penang Forum would like to state, as said by its representative, Rexy Prakash Chacko, during the question-and-answer session of the launch, that this is a statistic that it had obtained from the 2013 Annual Report of the Penang State Forestry Department (Jabatan Perhutanan Negeri Pulau Pinang) (JPNPP), which is made available at the department’s website.

Penang Forum refutes the claim that its representatives had said that the acreage of forests in the state are on the decrease. They had merely stated that the most recent statistics (2013) from JPNPP show that 7.4 per cent of the land in the state is forested area. In response to a question from the floor as to whether this statistic represents an increase or decrease in the area of forested land in the state, the PF representatives advised that the Annual Reports of the JPNPP should best be referred to.

Responding to the second claim where Sharom was singled out as saying that this decrease is a result of unplanned development and widespread hill-clearing activity, which had failed to be monitored by the DAP state government, Penang Forum would like to state that this is a blatant act of misreporting by Berita Harian.

Sharom, in responding to this allegation, stated that he has never made such a statement throughout his moderation of the Penang Hills Watch launch nor singled out any political party or entity as being responsible. In fact, he reiterated in his introduction that Penang Hills Watch was an effort to help the state government and its agencies, and he hoped this initiative, which is to assist the state government, would be welcomed by them.

Datin Dr Kam Suan Pheng, who is also a Penang Forum representative did clearly mention during the Penang Hills Watch launch that Penang Forum is open to engage with relevant government agencies to explore ways of cooperation and data exchange for tackling hill clearing issues.

Penang Forum is disappointed that despite repeatedly stating its intention to work together and complement the state government’s effort in monitoring hill-clearing activity, the reporting in Berita Harian Online has deliberately been distorted and politicised to cast a bad light and provoke contention between us, Penang Forum, and the Penang state government.

Penang Forum strongly takes objection to this erroneous reporting by Berita Harian Online and requests that the daily makes the necessary correction to this report and apologise for distorting the information provided during the Penang Hills Watch launch and press conference.

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