NGO with plenty on its plate

Landskap Malaysia is a non-profit organisation founded on March 25, 2009. It was initiated by former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his wife Tun Jeanne Abdullah.

Its mission is to create awareness through public engagement to ensure conservation initiatives to preserve, protect and restore the environment in urban areas filter down to every level in the community.

The organisation aims to develop understanding, appreciation and optimum awareness of tropical rainforests and the Malaysian landscape.

Since its inception, 63,473 trees have been planted in urban and degraded areas. A total of 189,900 Malaysians have participated in the programme.

Through its Seed Centre @ Schools programme, the NGO aims to expand the scope of Hutan Kita to teach youngsters to appreciate and understand the importance of seeds.

Focusing on seed germination and propagation, students are taught how to prepare seed plots and sow seeds. The Seed Centre started in 2013 with 45 schools participating in this programme.

Tropical Rainforest Conservation & Research Centre (TRCRC), the sister company of Landskap Malaysia, has a broader vision. It focuses on the conservation and preservation of tropical rainforest plant species besides enhancing the efforts of other related NGO’s in cultivating and maintaining a stable ecosystem.

TRCRC is involved in conservation and preservation projects in Merisuli, Sabah and Lojing Highlands in Kelantan.

Its Tropical Rainforest Training meanwhile focuses on human capital development. The programme’s primary objective is to provide broad-based education and training for upper secondary school leavers so they can become skilled personnel in the rainforest conservation industry.

Upon graduation, participants can become nursery supervisors, forest rangers, tree identifiers, conservation site supervisors, plot surveyors, seed collectors and other related professions.

During the nine-month training course, trainees will be exposed to on-the-job training to develop their skills and understanding of relevant subject matter.

Trainees will also be involved in programmes undertaken by Landskap Malaysia and TRCRC to provide them better exposure to the real working environment.

Crazed ‘kicker’ 
finally shackled

KUALA LUMPUR — Police have put an end to a man’s odd habit of assaulting women by kicking them in the rear with his arrest in Jinjang recently.

The activities of the 31-year-old, who is suspected to be of unsound mind, came to light after a closed-circuit television footage went viral on social media, showing the man kicking a woman to the ground near a commuter station in the vicinity of Bank Negara.

City police chief Datuk Amar Singh said: “We believe the suspect had committed similar acts around Bank Negara but victims failed to lodge reports, adding investigations have been classified under Section 324 of the Penal Code for voluntarily causing hurt.

In the June 30 incident, an auxiliary policeman stationed at Bank Negara received a complaint from the victim, an employee of the central bank

In the 36-second footage, the employee was seen walking towards the pedestrian link bridge connecting the Bank Negara station and Jalan Raja Laut.

The suspect approached her and kicked her before fleeing. The employee fell to the ground and suffered injuries to her cheek.

Police records show the suspect had a previous conviction relating to an attempt to enter the Bank Negara building while armed with a parang.

Pedestrian’s foot severed in superbike accident

GEORGE TOWN — An Indonesian pedestrian had her left foot severed when a superbike crashed into her, dragging her for several metres, along Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu yesterday.

The rider abandoned the motorcycle and fled on foot.

Passers-by called an ambulance and the victim, Maria Elisabet Hoar, 44, was sent to the hospital where attempts to reattach her foot were unsuccessful.

District police chief ACP Mior Farid Alathrash Wahid said the victim was crossing the road from Lebuh Macallum to Jalan Gurdwara when the motorcyclist, travelling from the direction of Pengkalan Weld, struck her.

She was trapped underneath the machine and dragged for some distance.

Police launched a traffic operation along Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu around noon yesterday in view of the coming festive season.

“Ops Selamat”, which began at 1pm, saw 59 summonses issued for various traffic offences, with speeding recording the most number of offenders. Eighteen summonses were also issued for illegal number plates.

The operation will continue until July 13 and offenders will be issued with the maximum RM300 fine during this period.

During the operation, police also nabbed a 22-year-old motorcyclist who was found to be intoxicated. Tests later revealed he was under the influence of drugs.

Couple held over 
love triangle murder

JOHOR BARU — An engineer who has been missing for the past week was found murdered yesterday, after allegedly being romantically linked with another man’s girlfriend.

Police dug up the body of Tan Chuen Take, 31, among undergrowth off Km25.9 on the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link Expressway (Northbound).

State police chief Datuk Wan Ahmad Najmuddin Mohd said a couple, aged 22 and 32, had been arrested on suspicion of abducting and murdering the victim.

Police investigations started following a report lodged over Tan’s disappearance on June 26.

In the report, it was mentioned Tan was last seen leaving his home in Taman Datok Chellam and had failed to return.

Two days prior to the report, Tan had visited his older sister at her home.

Investigators concluded Tan, who was employed at an oil exploration company in Singapore, had been abducted although there was no ransom demand made.

On June 27, police found Tan’s Honda Accord abandoned at the Sultanah Aminah Hospital car park.

At about 3am yesterday, police detained the couple at a house in Taman Indahpura, Kulai.

Several hours later, they were produced before a magistrate and a remand order was granted for their detention to facilitate investigations.

“At about 6pm, one of the suspects led police to the location where the body was buried,” Wan Ahmad Najmuddin said.

Initial investigations revealed the motive for the abduction and murder was vengeance and jealousy.

no images were found

16,000 trees planted,
no conflict of interest

Sunday Mail recently interviewed Landskap Malaysia’s board of governors members Tun Jeanne Abdullah, Dzulkifli David Abdullah and its corporate communications division manager Siti Hafizah Mohd Zahrom on the 2009 Hutan Kita-Kiara project. Below are excerpts from the interview.

Sunday Mail (SM): Why was a reforestation programme conducted in an existing forest?

Dzulkifli: Our role is to green the forest. But this (Bukit Kiara) is a secondary forest. Many trees had degraded. We stepped in to help as we are involved in enrichment of forests. The presence of rubber trees had also seen people illegally encroaching to tap rubber. We want to enrich this degraded urban forest. Reforestation is about bringing back native trees like rainforest species.

SM: Were saplings planted in the area during the programme?

Jeanne: Not saplings. Saplings will never survive in a forest. We planted hardened young trees. They were hardened in the nursery for a year or a year-and-a-half, and were about 1.5m at a minimum for survivability.

SM: Those who contributed to the programme said some trees planted died.

Dzulkifli: There were some which died. Our audit after the second year showed less than three per cent died. But these trees were replaced by the contractors. Some of the trees were less than 1.5m and we made the contractors replace these trees.

SM: Where were the trees sourced from?

Dzulkifli: There were two nurseries, with one being Tunas Harapan in Tanjung Malim. The nursery not only supplied trees, we also engaged their services for tree planting.

Siti Hafizah: The other nursery was Usaha Landcape. The nurseries were nominated by the committee undertaking the project. The decision to select the nurseries was a consensus by Institute of Landscape Architects Malaysia, Friends of Bukit Kiara and the Taman Tun Dr Ismail residents association, City Hall and the Malaysian Landscape Advisory Panel. It was also agreed that the trees planted would be maintained by the National Landscape Department.

SM: Isn’t Tunas Harapan’s owner James Kingham, a member of Landscape Malaysia’s board of governors?

Jeanne: Landscape Malaysia was not set up then. They (Tunas Harapan) taught us everything, guided us on everything and they worked with us. James Kingham started as a supplier then. Later, he was an advisory member of the Malaysian Landscape Advisory Panel. In fact, Pak Lah (referring to her husband and former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) was the one who brought me to his (Kingham’s) nursery. I was amazed by him because this man had helped the (old) Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (previously). But, there are so many others besides Kingham on the advisory panel.

SM: Isn’t there a conflict of interest? He (Kingham) was not only on the advisory panel, but was also supplying trees?

Dzulkifli: During the selection process, we evaluated (all suppliers). Everyone put in their price and the entire panel decided this made business sense. The price was right. It was a group decision and if you look around Malaysia, he (Kingham) is the only one in town supplying endangered species. We had no choice. The panel had to make sure the pricing was right. But Tunas Harapan supplied 10 to 15 per cent of the total number of trees purchased for the project. He was part of the advisory panel of the Malaysian Landscape Advisory Panel but when we (Landskap Malaysia) first started. He was not on our board.

SM: How much did these 1.5m trees cost?

Dzulkifli: The trees were endangered rare species and paying RM50 for one tree was a steal. We were lucky to get those trees at that price.

SM: How many trees were planted in Bukit Kiara?

Siti Hafizah: There were 16,000 trees planted under the project in Bukit Kiara.

SM: In our previous report, the National Landscape Department said the cost of maintenance for one tree was between RM200 and RM300, but only RM60 was collected, and RM50 went to the purchase of a tree.

Dzulkifli: Yes, it cost a lot to get into the forest and maintaining these trees can be expensive. The National Landscape Department only paid RM10 for maintainence for three years … I think we got a good deal.

SM: Was the National Landcape Department aware they would only be paid RM10 to maintain a tree?

Jeanne: Yes but they accepted because it was in their ministry’s (Housing and Local Government) agenda that they must plant trees in the area. So, we helped them start (the project).

During the interview, representatives from Landskap Malaysia also clarified on contributions made by Friends of Bukit Kiara co-founder Liew Khooi Cheng and Taman Tun Dr Ismail resident Pola Singh.

While Sunday Mail reported the duo claimed they had contributed three trees and one tree respectively, Landskap Malaysia said they had jointly contributed five trees. The NGO also insisted on setting the record straight, saying the Trail Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor had contributed RM30,600 for the project and not RM30,000 as reported.

Reforestation project above board, say organisers

KUALA LUMPUR — There were no irregularities in the implementation of the 2009 Hutan Kita-Kiara tree planting programme, its organisers said.

Landskap Malaysia board of governors member Tun Jeanne Abdullah also refuted allegations the programme launched on Feb 15, 2009 lacked transparency.

She said less than RM1 million was collected for the project and not millions as some claimed.

“Only RM800,000 was collected for the programme and Khazanah (Nasional), which donated RM90,000, was the biggest contributor,” she said.

Sunday Mail had in its front-page report on May 22 highlighted the project was under scrutiny after several participants questioned the manner in which money contributed to the project had been spent.

The community reforestation programme was initiated by the Malaysian Landscape Advisory Panel.

The organising partners were the National Landscape Department, Kuala Lumpur City Hall, the Institute of Landscape Architects Malaysia (ILAM) with the cooperation of Friends of Bukit Kiara and the Taman Tun Dr Ismail residents association.

Some of those who had contributed funds claimed the project implementation details lacked transparency as trees planted had allegedly died shortly after the programme was launched.

They also claimed they had not been able to get an explanation from the organisers on the matter.

Landskap Malaysia, however, said only three per cent of trees planted died.

The non-governmental organisation added it had not received complaints on the matter.

The NGO also said a total of 16,000 trees were planted in Bukit Kiara for the programme, with each costing RM50 (donors paid RM60 for a tree).

The remaining RM10 was channeled to the National Landscape Department, tasked with maintaining the trees for three years.

Those who had participated in the programme had previously said their donation of RM60 included the handling and maintenance of trees for three years.

On claims by those familiar with the project that saplings planted had died as they were planted between existing trees, Jeanne said this was untrue.

She said hardened young trees had been planted “as saplings will never survive in a forest”.

“The trees were hardened in a nursery for about a year and were about 1.5m in height,” she said.

On how funds contributed by the public had been spent, Jeanne, who was then chairman of the Malaysian Landscape Advisory Panel, said ILAM acted as treasurer for the project, with the National Landscape Department being the main organisers.

“ILAM had opened a separate bank account for the project in 2009 under the Hutan Kita-Kiara project and also managed funds collected. They were also able to give out tax exemption forms,” she said.

Landskap Malaysia said a trust fund was not set up for the project.

Sunday Mail was also informed there was a surplus of RM71,000 in the bank account set up by ILAM in 2012 and a cheque for this amount was handed to Landskap Malaysia.

The advisory panel was subsequently dissolved after the project.

“The surplus funds could not go to planting of trees in Bukit Kiara. So, they were spent elsewhere for other Hutan Kita projects,” said Jeanne.

On claims that tags on trees with names of contributors had been washed away after the launch, Jeanne said: “Tags will fall off, (but) residents did not complain. Not even once.”

Jeanne added the project had seen encouraging participation but not everyone filed for tax exemption returns.

“We invited a lot of people to plant trees, forms were filled and they were told when they registered that they could claim tax exemption with their receipts.

“I called up some of the participants and they said they still have the receipts. But a lot of people did not do so because they bought one tree and did not bother to claim,” she said.

The National Landscape Department had previously told Sunday Mail that while it had agreed to bear the cost of care for the trees, it did not receive fundings for the upkeep of trees.

Its Bukit Kiara park director, Saharudin Abu Rohan, had said it did not receive funding for the maintenance of trees besides that allocated in its annual budget.

Saharudin had also said that even if the department had received funds, it would not be enough as the cost of maintenance for one tree could be as high as RM200.

It was previously reported the organisers of the Hutan Kita-Kiara programme had set a target of planting 50,000 trees over 97 hectares throughout Bukit Kiara.

The public were invited to pay RM300 for five trees, RM3,000 for 50 trees or RM300,000 for 5,000 trees.

Contributors were promised a plaque or commemorative inscription, with their names or organisation placed at the planting plots within the park, and ownership of the trees, names and details of contributions entered in a registration book, a certificate of participation and tax exemption incentives.

They were also told trees would be preserved under existing rules and regulations.

Deputy health DG: Vaccination could become law within a year

PETALING JAYA — The proposal to make vaccination mandatory could become part of the law within a year if the route taken is to add it to existing health regulations, deputy health director-general Datuk Dr S. Jeyaindran said yesterday.

He said it may take longer if the matter had to be approved by Parliament.

He said it could not be ascertained at this point which option the ministry and other related ministries would pursue.

“If all that is needed is an addition to regulations, then it could be done in a year.”

Dr Jeyaindran said it was likely the proposal could be incorporated into the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988, that relates to the spread of diseases.

“But it is not that easy to turn this proposal into law. There are several steps that need to be adhered to, including getting the views of stakeholders to get them on board,” he added.

Stakeholders included doctors in the Health Ministry, the Malaysian Medical Association and associations representing paediatricians, religious communities and parents’ groups and those representing the community at large.

His comments come in the wake of a statement by Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya that the ministry planned to make vaccination compulsory.

Dr Hilmi had said on Friday the ministry would hold discussions with the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry and Department of Islamic Development to iron out the process of making it mandatory.

Dr Jeyaindran said the ministry had an ongoing campaign to educate parents on the benefits of vaccination, especially to protect children against measles and diptheria

He said the ministry was concerned about the rise in the number of parents who declined vaccination for children on religious or health grounds.

He said some refused as they claimed it was against their religious beliefs or were worried over its halal status, while others believed it could be detrimental to childrens’ health.

Dr Jeyaindran said the refusal to allow vaccinations would definitely reduce “herd immunity” in the community where there would be an increased incidence of diseases like measles due to more people being non-resistant to the disease.

Herd immunity is a general resistance to a pathogen in a population based on immunity to it acquired by a large proportion of members over time.

“It is important to build herd immunity in a community so that everyone benefits from general vaccination of children. If parents refuse, it may reduce immunity among children,” he added.

Dr Jeyaindran said measles is not a fatal disease but may lead to complications over time, with possible injury to
the brain.

“This is why we stress the need to immunise children against measles, so that they grow into healthy adults and not become victims of the complications that may arise later,” he said.

Meanwhile, it is understood that there is also talk in some circles of disallowing children who were not vaccinated from registering in primary schools.

Dr Jeyaindran said this should not be considered as it meant penalising children for the “sins” of their parents.

It has been reported that nearly 1,500 people nationwide refused vaccination, with nearly 500 as of March.

Two children died of diphtheria last week, prompting Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan to announce plans to introduce mandatory vaccination for students.

The Health Ministry has recommended vaccination for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, tuberculosis, polio, mumps, measles and rubella, hepatitis B and human papillomavirus.

‘Mandatory vaccine regime fair trade-off’

PETALING JAYA —A mandatory vaccine regime needs to be introduced for schoolchildren, according to two senior legal and medical practitioners.

Former Medico-Legal Society of Malaysia president S. Radhakrishnan said making vaccination mandatory would be a fair trade-off between ensuring rights of the individual and public interest.

“Generally, no medical treatment should be forced on patients as consent is a cornerstone of medicine.

“That said, there are exceptions. In this case, mandatory vaccinations being in the interest of students and public health,” he said.

Radhakrishnan stressed the need to inform the public thoroughly so as not to make mandatory vaccination appear draconian.

“There should be every effort made to raise public awareness on the benefits of vaccination,” he said.

“Should the parents still decide against vaccination, the state should interfere through statutory intervention for the health of the child and in public interest.”

Radhakrishnan said government involvement in health affairs was not unprecedented as doctors were required to report patients infected with deadly contagious diseases.

“Some argue this is in breach of patient-practitioner confidentiality but it is in the public’s interest. It would not be acceptable to keep quiet if a patient was found to have Ebola.”

He suggested the health and education ministries coordinate an awareness campaign to inform both children and their parents of the benefits of vaccination.

“This can be as simple as fliers distributed to schoolchildren to take home to parents. We need to encourage parents to act in the best interests of their children,” he said.

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr John Chew said the anti-vaccine lobby was fuelled by a dangerous mix of fear, ignorance of disease and how vaccines worked.

“There is a lot of misinformation out there … religious reasons, fear of complications but it is difficult to zero in on what drives opposition to vaccines.

“It would be best to raise concerns with your doctor to make an informed decision and not depend on rumours,” he said.

Former MMA president Dr Ashok Philips said the vaccination programme was a victim of its own success as people did not understand the seriousness of illnesses.

“Some assume that just because they are vaccinated against the most well-known and common diseases, they are safe.

“But just because you have not heard of a disease, does not mean it cannot harm you. People just do not understand how debilitating and deadly these illnesses can be,” he said.

Dr Ashok urged the public to make informed decisions on vaccination and for the authorities to push for an information campaign.

“The best way to counter bad information is with good information. The public must ensure they make informed decisions and the respective ministries must do their part.

“The vaccines are safe, tested and approved for public use under the most stringent conditions and those spreading deliberate misinformation are engaging in irresponsible behaviour,” he said.

Parking time in city centre 
to be limited

KUALA LUMPUR — A new parking system, aimed to ease congestion and encourage the use of public transport, will be enforced in the capital soon.

Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said the system, which will begin on July 18, would only allow motorists to park at bays by the roadside for no more than two hours in the Golden Triangle, mainly Bukit Bintang, KLCC and Jalan Ampang.

“This will be enforced in the central business district. We are looking at implementing the same system in Brickfields,” said Tengku Adnan.

“Motorists should park at parking complexes if they intend to spend more than two hours in an area.

“People should also use public transport … there’s no harm walking a bit, it’s good for health. Your stress levels will reduce.”

Tengku Adnan added the parking charges in these areas will be revised. Motorists currently pay between 60sen and 80sen for an hour and tend to park for eight to 10 hours,’’ he said.

“The first hour will be RM2 and the second hour will be RM3. Then the motorist will have to leave. We will not issue summonses to those who exceed the time limit. Instead, we will clamp or tow their vehicles.

“This is to deter people from driving into the city centre. City Hall is in the midst of erecting electronic boards indicating the number of parking bays at parking complexes and shopping malls.”

Mayor Datuk Seri Mohd Amin Nordin Abdul Aziz said City Hall have upgraded its parking meters.

“We have disabled the feature that allows motorists to park for as long as they like. Motorists will not be able to cheat the system,” said Mohd Amin.

He added City Hall’s enforcement personnel will monitor vehicles parked at the bays to ensure they keep to the two-hour time limit.

The system comes after the new extension of the Light Rail Transit lines in Kelana Jaya and Ampang were launched on Thursday.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, had after taking a ride on the train, said the service would go a long way to reduce traffic jams in the Klang Valley and encourage the use of public transportation.

The government has been trying to reduce the number of vehicles going into the city for decades.

The authorities have mooted the need to introduce congestion charges in the 80s and the Transport Ministry introduced a car pooling campaign 16 years ago. Both initiatives failed to achieve the desired results.

According to the Kuala Lumpur Structure Plan 2020, a major shift occurred away from public transport with the increase in car ownership between 1985 and 1997.

The increasing number of cars on the road is caused in part by higher personal affluence and lack in sufficient public transport, largely bus services.

Talks of congestion charges surfaced last year after Mohd Amin was quoted as saying City Hall was looking to impose such fees for private vehicles next year.

He had then said such charges would be implemented in the central business district after the public transport system in the city has been improved.

London motorists face strict rules, hefty fines

KUALA LUMPUR — London, being a thriving commercial and residential city, has strict parking regulations and imposes hefty fines as part the city council’s efforts to facilitate traffic flow.

While a shortage of parking space in many parts of the city is acknowledged, authorities ensure their extensive public transport network overcomes this setback.

Besides the public transport network, there is also what is known as the “London congestion charge’’, a £11.50 (RM60.93) fee imposed on most vehicles entering the city.

This charge discourages vehicles from entering the city, hence, reducing high traffic flow in central London.

Parking on street bays is discouraged except for those living in the vicinity. These motorists-cum-residents are residential permit holders.

Non-residents are allowed to park but they cannot exceed 15 minutes in certain areas.

Ignoring this regulation would result in the motorist receiving a Penalty Charge Notice (traffic summon), and their vehicle is either clamped or towed away.

Warning signs are clearly visible and enforcement officers are constantly on foot patrol keeping a lookout for errant motorists.

Those ignoring such regulations in London end up paying £130 (RM688) in penalty charges, and another £200 (RM1,059) for towing charges.

With the large number of closed-circuit television cameras and traffic enforcers, a high number of vehicles found flouting parking regulations are recorded daily.

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