HE’S COVERED THE WATERFRONT: An amendment will protect Sabah coastline from Likas Bay to Tanjung Aru
A BIRD'S-EYE view of the scenic Likas Bay in Kota Kinabalu from Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman's office on the 18th floor of Wisma Innoprise is a sight to behold.
I had the privilege of enjoying the breathtaking view when a fellow journalist and I met Musa at his office sometime early this year.
Pointing at the bay, Musa remarked that Sabah is lucky to be blessed with such natural beauty, and that he always made it a point to show the scenic seafront to visitors. While we were enjoying the panoramic view, Musa interjected to reveal a plan conceived in 1997 to develop the area and enquired if we were aware of it. He then exclaimed that if he had his way, he would never allow any development or reclamation.
True to his word, Musa, with the concurrence of his state cabinet colleagues, initiated the tabling of a Bill to amend the State Land Ordinance at the recent State Legislative Assembly sitting to protect about 1,550ha of state land along the scenic coastline from Likas Bay to Tanjung Aru.
The Land Ordinance (Amendment) 2012 Bill, which was unanimously passed by the House, contained an assurance that no alienation of state land within the specified area would be allowed. The tabling of the Bill came barely 10 months after an Arbitration Court dismissed a RM1.7 billion suit brought against state-owned MLGH Sdn Bhd that rescinded a joint-venture agreement signed in 1997 with two companies to develop about 162ha of seafront land off Kampung Tanjung Aru Lama and Sembulan.
The amendment to the Land Ordinance, which earned praise from local and international environmental non-governmental organisations such as WWF Malaysia and the United States-sponsored Land Empowerment Animals People (Leap), was necessary as existing policies were not adequate to prevent alienation of state land along the coast.
Prior to the tabling of the Bill, the state cabinet deliberated at length about the negative impact of uncontrolled development along the coastal areas in Sabah, especially along Tanjung Aru and Likas Bay, to the environment.
The cabinet decided that effective approach and action had to be taken to guarantee that certain state land would not be alienated to ensure that they were protected.
After the Bill was approved by the House, a beaming Musa said the reason why the state government pushed forward with the landmark decision was to make it difficult for others in the future to easily reclaim the area in question.
Musa wants to make sure that the Kota Kinabalu waterfront is protected at all cost from further reclamation for the benefit of, not just the present generation, but also the future. "We have seen what was done in the past where precious prime waterfront land was given away indiscriminately to quarters with vested interests."
Kudos to Musa and the state government for the decision as he could have taken the easy way out and just gone with the flow and allowed the waterfront to be reclaimed and developed privately, making the seafront less accessible to the public. It is heartwarming that the state government had the political will to stop the plan to develop the seafront in spite of knowing there would be law suits coming its way.
Reclamation along the coastal areas should never be allowed because Sabah is unlike countries such as Singapore and Hong Kong where land is scarce. The state government certainly deserves a pat on the back for the bold decision it has taken and let's hope that such protection will be extended to other ecologically sensitive areas in the state.
For Musa, it is another feather in his cap, as he has also taken other bold initiatives to protect the environment since assuming the chief ministership, such as the approval of thousands of hectares of tropical forest for conservation and sustainable development.