Teresa Kok: Budget cut shows Perikatan lacks understanding of overseas anti-palm oil campaigns on industry

Teresa Kok said she was disappointed by the government’s move to cut the allocation to address anti-palm oil campaigns abroad, leaving it with only RM20 million for next year compared to the RM27 million Pakatan Harapan (PH) had set aside in Budget 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Teresa Kok said she was disappointed by the government’s move to cut the allocation to address anti-palm oil campaigns abroad, leaving it with only RM20 million for next year compared to the RM27 million Pakatan Harapan (PH) had set aside in Budget 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 12 — The ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN) appears unaware of the impact of overseas anti-palm oil campaigns on the industry judging from its decision to decrease programme funds under Budget 2021, Seputeh MP Teresa Kok said today.

The Opposition lawmaker said she was disappointed by the government’s move to cut the allocation to address anti-palm oil campaigns abroad, leaving it with only RM20 million for next year compared to the RM27 million Pakatan Harapan (PH) had set aside in Budget 2020.

“The reduction in allocations for the programmes to address the international anti-palm oil campaign shows that the Perikatan Nasional government is completely unaware of the tough challenges faced by the Malaysian palm oil industry in the international market.

“[The government] also lacks understanding on the importance and contribution of the palm oil industry to the Malaysian economy,” she said during her debate on the Budget 2021 Bill today.

Palm oil products are one of Malaysia’s biggest export commodities that have increasingly come under international scrutiny following criticism from climate change and labour activists.

Kok was in charge of the Primary Industries Ministry that handled commodities and has since been renamed the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry after PN replaced PH in March.

The minister in charge now is Datuk Mohd Khairuddin Ahmad Razali.

In her debate today, Kok questioned the abrupt termination of the Malaysian Pepper Board (MPB) director-general this week.

“I was informed that the MPB director-general was suddenly terminated without any reason given.

“His contract of service was supposed to expire on February 11 next year, but he was terminated on November 10,” she said without naming the person.

Stanley Liew had been named director-general of the federal statutory body after PH rose to power. A check of the MPB website today showed the position is currently vacant.

Citing Section 19 (1) of the MPB Act, Kok said the minister may appoint the director-general of the board but is not authorised to terminate the service contract without any reason.

“By law, an employer cannot abruptly terminate the contract of an officer who did not commit any offence. This act is indeed illegal and can be taken to court,” she said.

“I would also like to remind the minister that the director-general of MPB was selected and appointed through the interview process and through the advertising of vacancies by the ministry.

“He is a corporate figure who has a lot of experience in terms of management and marketing in large companies before his retirement. The minister cannot abruptly fire a high-ranking officer according to his whims and fancy,” she added.

She said the government have repeatedly advised employers against laying off employees in the Covid economy, but questioned the decision to terminate the contract of a government officer without giving a reason for it.

“This action contradicts the government’s statement to the public,” she said.

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