NEWS

Teresa and school make peace over anti-palm oil performance

6 Jul 2019, 2:36 am

Updated a year ago

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Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok and an international school have buried the hatchet over a performance which depicted oil palm plantations in a negative light.

Kok shared that administrators from The International [email protected] visited her at the ministry yesterday during which they apologised over the incident.

"They shared a video clip with me which was actually shown at the students’ assembly. The clip included an excerpt of an anti-palm oil video titled 'Rang-Tan' produced by the NGO Greenpeace.

"The students merely repeated the roles as depicted in the anti-palm oil video clip, which was shown at the assembly.

"They apologised to me for the unfortunate incident and said that on hindsight, they could have handled the situation better," she wrote in a Facebook posting today.

 

On Tuesday, Kok criticised the performance, which claimed that oil palm trees led to deforestation and killed up to 3,000 orangutans annually.

Urging the headmaster and teachers to stop emulating European countries, she accused them of doing a disservice to the nation.

Kok reiterated today that her criticisms were not meant to stifle freedom of expression, but rather to push for a better and more comprehensive understanding of the palm oil controversy.

She said she had explained to the school administrators the health benefits of palm oil, as well as its importance to the economy, especially for Malaysians living in rural areas.

"I must say that I truly appreciate their visit and sincerity in resolving this unfortunate misunderstanding.

"The humility and sincerity shown by them is undeniable proof that they are indeed a good group of professional people who run and administer the school," she added.

Kok said she hoped this would open doors for further engagement between her ministry and other schools.

Palm oil has been a critical component of the country's economy but is facing international headwinds, particularly in Europe, which is curbing its consumption due to environmental concerns.

The commodity has helped hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty through the Felda programme, and most of the plantations were opened in the 1970s.

While Putrajaya has set a moratorium on the expansion of further oil palm plantations, there are still a handful of plantations still being opened by state governments which have exclusive jurisdiction on land matters.

One example is logging activities intended for oil palm plantation near the Mulu National Park, which Putrajaya has expressed concern.

It warned that the move will hurt the country's effort to counter the negative perception towards the commodity but has fallen on the deaf ears of the Sarawak government.

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