KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 23 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today announced an indigenous hardwood species the Merbau as Malaysia’s national tree. 

The prime minister said Merbau was chosen as a symbol of national pride and to show the government’s commitment towards sustainability.

“I would like to take the opportunity to announce that the Merbau tree (Malacca teak) has been chosen as our National Tree. With its hardy nature, I believe that all Malaysians, can take the Merbau as a symbol of national pride.

“I hereby reaffirm Malaysia’s commitment to maintain at least 50 per cent of our land area under forest cover in accordance with our commitment made at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992,” he announced at the launch of the Hutan Kita exhibition at the Kuala Lumpur Tower here.

“I am indeed confident that the ‘Hutan Kita’ Exhibition will be a catalyst in increasing awareness among us with regards to our forest. It is our forest and therefore we are responsible for it,” he said.

The world’s oldest serving prime minister said the West’s claims that Malaysia’s palm oil industry has negatively affected the sustainability of its rainforest ecosystem is baseless and unjustified.

He said the claims have adversely impacted the country’s ability to raise the socio-economic well-being of its population and the national agenda to achieve sustainable development goals.

“It has also significant detrimental effects on oil palm growers which include 650,000 smallholders as well as another 1.5 million people employed throughout the palm oil supply chain,” he said.

Dr Mahathir stressed that Malaysia’s palm oil industry is developed in a sustainable and responsible manner to ensure that it does not cause environmental degradation while avoiding unsustainable practices.