Anifah: Oil palm industry can boost Sabah’s economy during tough times

Julia Chan
A worker shows oil palm fruits at a plantation in Kuala Selangor January 2, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KOTA KINABALU, April 7 — Former foreign minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman is the latest to call on the Sabah state government to allow oil palm mills to operate during the movement control order.

Anifah, a former plantation industries and commodities deputy minister, said it would be more productive to allow the mills to continue operation while enforcing stricter hygiene and safety standards like social distancing, using protective gear and other measures that have been recommended by health authorities.

“One of Sabah’s largest contributors to the economy is from the oil palm sector which brings  in about RM1 billion to the state. The state government should consider all aspects, including the economical impact before making this decision.

“Don’t let it get to a stage where this sector can no longer contribute to the economy and then the state will use the excuse of having no income to not provide aid for the people when in fact there are ways that can help the state economy,” said Anifah.

Chief minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal announced the closure of several mills in the east coast districts due to the discovery of several cases of Covid-19 among its staff.

He later expanded the directive to cover six districts — Tawau, Lahad Datu, Kalabakan, Kinabatangan, Semporna and Kunak during the movement control order (MCO).

Many large oil palm companies and also the Malaysian Palm Oil Association and the Malaysian Estate Owner Association have appealed against the decision.

In pleading the case for reopening, Anifah said that having the mills operational again would be a boost to the state in such precarious times when many sectors are hit by the MCO to prevent the spread of Covid 19.

He said that while he understood that such measures taken were to protect the health of the people, he said that the people’s welfare were also a consideration.

“Their well-being could also mean not putting them under such pressure and stress that could lead to illness due to pressures from financial burdens,” he said.

He called on the Sabah state government to review their decision to continue the closure of oil palm mills and plants for the welfare of the people.

“Let’s not have the people die not just from Covid 19 but also from starvation,” he said.

Earlier today, Shafie said that he was aware of the economic implications of temporarily shutting down the mills and was doing what was best for the people in light of the pandemic. 

“I understand, I know people are saying the economic situation is bad. But now we are facing a virus that we need to control,” he said, that he would monitor the situation for now.

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