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Address gaps in legislation: CJSS
Published on: Tuesday, February 27, 2024
By: Larry Ralon
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Address gaps in legislation: CJSS
Abdul Rahman (left) with Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) President Peter D Maynard KC after officiating the opening of The Borneo Rainforest Law Conference 2024.
Kota Kinabalu: Sabah needs to address the gaps in legislation that allow for unsustainable practices and advocate for policies that ensure environmental conservation, said Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Sebli.

According to him, despite being an ecological haven, people are witnessing the impacts of environmental challenges that require focused legal attention.  

“Take the Crocker Range, for example. According to the report on the ‘Sabah Biodiversity Conservation Project: Identification of Potential Protected Areas – Crocker Range Foothill,’ the Malaysian Culture, Environment and Tourism Ministry has identified various threats to biodiversity conservation in the Crocker Range.

Among other things, commercial logging in State and alienated land outside the Crocker Range Park, illegal logging within the Crocker Range Park, and fires — whether deliberately set or accidental — are major threats to conservation efforts.

“It is vital for us to recognise the importance of preserving this beautiful landscape for generations to come,” he said. 

He said Sabah’s fauna is equally captivating, with endangered species such as the Bornean orangutan, pygmy elephant and the Sumatran rhinoceros calling the state home. 

“However, poaching, habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict pose significant threats to these iconic species. To safeguard their future, stringent legal measures are imperative.

Legal frameworks must be enhanced to deter illegal wildlife trade and ensure the preservation of Sabah’s charismatic fauna for future generations.

“In addition, Sabah’s marine biodiversity, characterised by vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life, faces threats from overfishing, habitat destruction, and climate change.

Legal practitioners and marine experts are encouraged to advocate for robust legislation to safeguard marine ecosystems, promoting sustainable fishing practices and marine conservation efforts,” he added.

Speaking to officiate the opening of The Borneo Rainforest Law Conference 2024 at Sabah International Convention Centre (SICC) here Monday, Abdul Rahman shared that Sabah’s lush rainforests are home to an incredible diversity of plant and animal species, some of which are endemic to this region. 

“The towering dipterocarp trees, vibrant orchids - known as the “Gold of Kinabalu”, and unique pitcher plants create an intricate tapestry that is unparalleled.

The majestic Mount Kinabalu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stands as a testament to Sabah’s natural beauty, harbouring many endemic species in its diverse ecosystems,” he said.

He also shared his adventure at the famed Salt Trail within the depths of the Crocker Range. 

“It has been said that Sabah’s history can be traced along the Salt Trail of the Crocker Range.

This century-old 34-kilometre-long passage between Inobong and Kampung Tikolod links some of the most traditional Dusunic hamlets between Penampang and the interior Tambunan, cutting across the primaeval mountain range and highland tropical rainforests of Sabah.

The trail was once used as a route by villagers to easily access town markets with fresh produce and return with salt and other goods.

“​To this day, the salt trail remains the accessible route to remote villages, especially in the upper Papar River and Tambunan area.

Natural wonders like the Crocker Range contribute significantly to the rich biodiversity and cultural heritage of Sabah.

Nestled on the island of Borneo, Sabah boasts a breathtaking array of flora and fauna, making it a global biodiversity hotspot.

“​I had the opportunity to embark on the Salt Trail adventure last year. If you have not yet experienced it, I encourage you to give it a try whenever you have the time.

Although I did not complete the journey, it was an unforgettable experience.

Through that attempt, I gained a deep appreciation for the lush forest and the rich culture of the indigenous people in Sabah.

Despite its challenges, the adventure would not disappoint those seeking a unique Borneo experience in its famous rainforest environment,” he said.

Environmental protection is paramount and must not be neglected in any context, said Abdul Rahman, echoing the Malaysian Solicitor General Datuk Almalena Sharmila Dato’ Dr Johan’s speech during the Opening of the Legal Year of Sabah and Sarawak last month that Malaysia has made significant commitments to environmental protection on the international stage. 

“In 1994, Malaysia ratified the three sister conventions known as the “Rio Conventions”, namely the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), followed by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in 1997. 

“​Malaysia ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2002. The protocol aimed to reduce carbon emissions by placing the burden on developed countries to monitor greenhouse gas emissions and to assist developing countries in combating climate change.

However, some critics argue that it was insufficient because developing countries were not required to monitor their carbon emissions.

“In 2016, Malaysia participated in ratifying the Paris Agreement to enhance existing commitments to address global climate change issues.

This Agreement aims to take a holistic approach to combat climate change by setting new goals.

One of the binding commitments established by the Paris Agreement is for parties to prepare, communicate, and maintain their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and to pursue domestic measures to achieve them.

“​According to the Office of the Malaysian Attorney General, Malaysia submitted its Intended NDC and updated NDC to the UNFCCC in January 2016 and July 2021, respectively.

Through the updated NDC, Malaysia has committed to reducing the intensity of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the economy by 45 per cent by 2030 compared to emission levels in 2005,” he said. 

The Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, commonly known as “COP,” is the supreme decision-making body of the UNFCCC, held annually with participation from all Parties.

Malaysia participated in the UNFCCC COP 28, hosted by the United Arab Emirates in Dubai from November 30 to December 13, 2023.

Abdul Rahman said climate change presents a global crisis that demands a unified response, and Malaysia is not exempt from its impacts.

“It is imperative for our legal framework to adapt and evolve to confront the challenges posed by climate change.

This entails promoting renewable energy sources, incentivising energy efficiency measures and integrating climate resilience into urban planning and development regulations.”

He was pleased to learn that Sarawak was the first state to take the initiative to pass The Environment (Reduction of Greenhouse Emission) Bill 2023 aiming to promote carbon capture and storage and mitigate the effects of climate change while providing opportunities for Sarawakians to participate in global warming mitigation projects and to earn carbon credits for their efforts. 

The conference was participated by 160 legal members from 23 commonwealth and non-commonwealth nations. 

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