KOTA KINABALU: The supposed mineral resources
beneath the Maliau Basin should be left there for future generations to decide.
"Future generations will have the benefit
of new technology, alternative energy sources, knowledge-economy and things
still unknown to us," said former Chief Minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee.
Speaking at the installation dinner of the
Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu at a hotel here Saturday night, Yong stressed there
was no need to mine beneath the conservation areas of the Maliau Basin.
Yong, who is MP for Gaya and Assemblyman for
Likas, said the State Government was aware of the pressures to open up the
Maliau Basin for government revenue and private profit.
He said that in order to lock in the
conservation of the Maliau Basin, known as "The Lost World" and
identified as one of the World Heritage sites, the State Government gazetted the
area as Class 1 Protection and as Heritage Conservation under the Cultural
Heritage Conservation Enactment 1977.
"This is so that the Government cannot
approve the area for exploitation, whether it is logging or mining without
getting the approval of the Legislative Assembly.
"The legal requirement to seek legislative
approval, and unavoidable public knowledge, is meant to be a deterrent to any
abuse by the executive branch of Government."
"Yong said it was felt at that time that
the Heritage Conservation legislation stood a better chance of success on the
basis that the Government would need to be accountable to the people before any degazetting of the protection.
He was Chief Minister when the Cultural
Heritage Bill was tabled at the Assembly in 1997.
He told Rotarians and their guests present at
the dinner that if the Maliau Basin was opened up, it could attract illegal
loggers, hunting of protected species, rubbish dumping and various other
"Therefore, I am most amazed that a
'Monkey or Gold' poser is today being considered at all.
"If mining were to be allowed, the
minerals would be exploited. After the gold has been taken out, the monkeys
would be gone - forever. My prayer is that the gold is not used as an excuse to
do monkey business," said Yong.
The choices, he felt, need not be a "gold
or monkey" dilemma.
"Under conservation, with research,
education and technological progress, we can benefit from the monkeys, the
wildlife and the eco-systems and bio-diversity," he added.
Yong expressed the hope that the national
seminar on mineral industry would be "conservation friendly" and that
the Government would uphold the resolutions of the bio-diversity international
conference that was held at the same time as the minerals seminar in Kota
Chief Minister Datuk Osu Sukam had said, after
the weekly Cabinet meeting last Wednesday, that the State Government would not
rush into making decisions to exploit the precious mineral resources,
particularly those identified within areas already protected as natural or
cultural heritage sites by the State Assembly, such as the Maliau Basin.
Osu said the Government would keep an open mind
on the matter that had yet to be raised in the Cabinet, pending receiving a
report on the proposals and solutions derived from the national seminar on the