Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin's spirited defence of palm oil in Malaysia, including her assertion that they were not harming the orangutan population and the primates were more likely to kill humans than the other way round, has gained social media attention.
The speech took place on Jan 5 but an excerpt began circulating on TikTok recently. It was subsequently shared by former Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli, a PKR vice-president who is presently inactive in the party.
In the excerpt, Zuraida said she visited Mecca recently and learnt that school books in Arab countries had put an unflattering light on the palm oil industry.
"The other thing I discovered while I was in Mecca - I just came back from my umrah. I was talking to our ambassador there, so he told me that in the schools in the Arab countries which his students went to, the books are still talking bad about our palm oil because we kill orangutans.
"I told him, in Malaysia, if you see an orangutan, the orangutan will kill you first, you won’t kill the orangutan first. Right?" he said.
Zuraida maintained that the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) have proper procedures in handling orangutans.
"Perhilitan has its policies. Do you think they simply go and kill orangutans? Even lions and tigers, when they see, they don't kill," she said.
Zuraida said there is a procedure in which the animal can be transferred to the zoo after being rendered unconscious instead.
There are also no lions living in the wild in Malaysia.
Zuraida said information from Perhilitan should be used to counter pressure from the UK, EU and the US.
She also announced that books on oil palm would be promoted in Malaysian schools.
"We are going to launch these books in schools in Malaysia. It's about oil palm so that we revive the knowledge on oil palm among our young children and population so that they can carry this for the future.
"We have to remind our younger generation about palm oil, our number one commodity. We have to sustain it, and we have to take care of it and promote it," he said.
Zuraida added that Malaysia should also engage the education ministries in other countries to ensure that they "do not bad mouth our palm oil in their education syllabus".
Reacting to the speech, Rafizi joked that he had been lied to by his teacher while in school.
Among the things that Rafizi sarcastically said his teacher had neglected to tell him was that orangutans would kill humans first and apparently, there were lions in Malaysia.
At the time of writing, Rafizi's tweet featuring the excerpt of Zuraida's speech had gained 876 retweets.
Bornean orangutans are considered to be critically endangered.
Banyak benda boleh belajar dari menteri2 yg bijak pandai:
1) di Malaysia, kalau orang utan jumpa manusia, orang utan bunuh manusia dulu 🧐
2) di Malaysia ada singa 🧐
Selamba aaah cikgu aku dulu tipu kat sekolah, tak ajar benda2 ni 😝 pic.twitter.com/saU8zc6YhN
— Rafizi Ramli (@rafiziramli) January 19, 2022