KOTA KINABALU, Dec 6 — Opposition leader Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal today condemned the controversial carbon trading project here involving two million hectares of Sabah’s forests as he questioned why there is a need for a foreign third party involvement.

He also raised an alleged discrepancy from the state’s Attorney General’s office on the matter.

The Senallang assemblyman said that the Nature Conservation Agreement (NCA) between the state government and Hoch Standard should not go ahead if it could not placate people’s concerns.

“By now, it is common knowledge, everyone knows that the State Attorney General has contradicting opinions on the NCA. How can this be allowed to go on — we are talking about two million hectares of our land, that has apparently already been signed over, and witnessed by our deputy chief minister,” said Shafie during the budget debate at the State Assembly sitting today.

“It is worrying, and yes, I would like to see it cancelled. While carbon credit deals are good, this scheme is not. We want revenue, but not by selling our land,” he said.

Shafie said that the matter was of high public interest, and the chief minister should clarify the concerns of the people including whether the deal would put Sabah’s protected forest reserves under the control of a private company for an extended period of 100 or 200 years.

“If we go through with this — apparently the agreement is already signed — will our land be managed by foreign third parties then? Will the state still have control of the land? This is what I’m worried about. We can do carbon credit, it’s a positive thing, but not like this,” he said.

His speech was interrupted by state Rural Development Minister Datuk Jahid Jahim and Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai who asked him to clarify where he heard that the land was “sold” to these third parties.

Shafie said he was referring to a letter that was widely circulated on social media, purportedly from the Sabah Attorney General to the company involved, asking for more evidence of the company’s dealings and background, and also instructing them not to pursue financing for the NCA until further instructions.

Shafie also said that the State Attorney General had confirmed that the letter was from her office.

The controversial deal involves initially putting up some 600,000ha of Sabah’s totally protected areas under the carbon deal with the Singapore-based firm, with provisions to go up to two million hectares if successful, but the lack of notice about the deal and transparency has environmental and conservation groups up in arms.

Since its exposure, only deputy chief minister Datuk Jeffrey Kitingan has spoken about the NCA, asserting that the deal would put Sabah in a win-win position without adversely affecting the indigenous communities.