KOTA KINABALU: Ramdi Indang, President of Sakag Talantang, a NGO concerned in particular about the KDMR community and the environment in Sabah, has sharply criticized Adrian Lasimbang’s persistent and one-sided objections to the Nature Conservation Agreement (NCA).
Indang emphasized the dire urgency of addressing the perpetual poverty issues plaguing the KDMR community in Sabah. With alarming poverty rates on the rise, Indang has underscored the fact that if immediate action is not taken, the situation will further deteriorate, subjecting the indigenous population to even more hardship and despair.
According to Indang, it is disheartening to observe that eight out of the ten poorest districts in Malaysia are located in Sabah, all of which are inhabited by the KDMR community. He described this as a tragic reality, illustrating the extent of the challenges faced by the indigenous population.
To provide context, Indang presented statistical data, indicating that the average per capita GDP in Sabah stands at approximately US$6,000.00, significantly lower than the national average of US$12,000.00. Comparatively, Singapore boasts an average per capita GDP of approximately US$76,000.00, ranking it second highest in the world.
Indang further highlighted Sabah’s highest rates of illness, illiteracy, youth unemployment, and the serious challenges with water supply, electricity, and recurrent flooding.
Indang expressed disappointment at the current state of affairs, recalling that Sabah had the third- highest average per capita GDP in Malaysia when the country was formed 59 years ago. He emphasized that the annual budget allocation of approximately RM5 billion from Kuala Lumpur, combined with the local income generated in Sabah, is grossly insufficient to tackle the pressing problems faced by the state.
Considering these circumstances, Indang stressed the necessity for Sabah to explore innovative avenues to secure additional funds in order to bolster the economy, raise the average per capita GDP, and ultimately eradicate poverty.
He noted that he had extensively reviewed and analyzed the Nature Conservation Agreement (NCA) and its potential transformative impact on Sabah’s economy.
Indang underscored the importance of obtaining direct briefings from the local NC Staffs of Hoch Standard (HS) based in KK, highlighting the credibility of Dr. Ho Choon Hou, the Service Providers, and the Project Developers associated with HS.
With confidence, Indang stated that the NCA, subject to the provision of data by the Forest Department and Carbon Credit price trends, holds the potential to generate a minimum of RM2.8 billion per year for Sabah. Additionally, it would create sustainable long-term employment opportunities through the recruitment of 3,000-5,000 Carbon Rangers.
The implementation of the NCA is expected to attract multi-billion foreign capital inflows, resulting in positive economic impacts throughout the Sabah economy. Indang also highlighted the incorporation of cutting-edge technologies like satellite imaging, drone technology, AI, ML, blockchain, and cloud banking, which would provide technology transfer benefits to all Sabahans.
Crucially, Indang clarified that the NCA focuses on perpetual forest conservation and does not involve logging activities or require the felling of a single tree. Moreover, the agreement does not necessitate the Sabah Government to inject any capital or expose itself to losses or liabilities, nor does it permit mineral prospecting. He emphasized that the NCA presents an opportunity to unlock Sabah’s “lazy” Natural Capital assets.
Citing a recent report in the Borneo Lines Newspaper, Indang highlighted Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan’s proposal to relocate the Carbon Exchange from Kuala Lumpur to Sabah. Indang praised Dr. Kitingan, Deputy Chief Minister of Sabah and Chairman of the NCA Steering and Management Committee, for his commitment to addressing poverty issues faced by Sabahans, particularly the KDMR community.
Indang urged Adrian to actively participate in constructive dialogue by directly engaging with Dr. Kitingan.
Rather than sensationalizing the NCA, he emphasized the importance of fostering an objective and professional discourse where concerns can be addressed and contributions made towards improving the agreement. Indang encouraged all stakeholders to approach the matter with a collaborative and constructive mindset, prioritizing the best interests of Sabah and its indigenous communities.
Indang emphasized the importance of prioritizing the best interests of Sabah and cautioned against airing grievances in the media, as it could potentially damage Sabah’s reputation as a stable location for foreign investors.
He called for unity among indigenous Sabahans and urged a departure from the “Business As Usual” approach, asserting that the NCA offers a practical solution not only to alleviate poverty but also to foster economic growth and transform the Sabah economy into a Green Circular Economy in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In a positive development, Indang informed that a credible foreign funder has proposed RM17 billion to the Sabah government specifically for flood mitigation problems. Combined with the multi- billion foreign capital inflow and carbon credit income generated by the NCA, this funding could have a significant multiplier effect on the Sabah economy. Indang further disclosed that the Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) has expressed full support for the implementation of the NCA.
Indang urged all stakeholders to prioritize the urgent needs of the indigenous community and work collectively to address poverty in Sabah. He emphasized the importance of sustainable economic policies that preserve the environment and secure the livelihoods of future generations.