The Town and Country Planning Act 1976 was breached when the area was excised to "benefit companies connected to the Negri Sembilan BN leadership" in 2004, PKR director of strategy Rafizi Ramli said.
"Suffice to say, land was transferred to companies or individuals... and we will expose this.
"Some (politicians) were clever to use frontmen but others have direct ownership of the companies," Rafizi (left in photo) told reporters.
In the first of what he promises to be a string of exposes implicating top leaders, he claimed the move had not only left the state shortchanged, but also led to massive floods in the surrounding area of Pekan Jelai after logging was carried out in 2009.
Rafizi said that the excision of the Jeram Padang Selatan forest reserve area, first gazetted in 1918, breaches Section 18(1) of the Act which states no land can be used if the usage goes against the local plan.
According to the Jempol District draft plan 2002-2015, the Jeram Padang Selatan forest reserve area is marked as an environmentally safe area (ESA) level one, which means no development is allowed.
The Negri Sembilan Structural Plan 2010-2011 notes that all areas marked as ESA "must be conserved...to maintain environmental balance" and is "not suitable for development".
‘Collusion between businessmen and politicians’
A video of the Jeram Padang Selatan area shown by Rafizi revealed large bald spots on a hill, while a close-up showed that the green areas were not forest but undergrowth following the felling of trees.
“It’s a very vicious cycle which starts with a politician illegally and in collusion with businessmen conduct corrupt practices to transfer this land to become theirs.
“Then they reap the benefit from extensive logging, then commercialise the land by planting oil palm trees and after that it becomes a housing estate, and this leaves a deep impact as these areas are rain catchment areas,” he said.
Rafizi, who with PKR deputy secretary-general T Kumar studied the Negri Sembilan forest reserve area, said the Jeram Padang Selatan story is just one of many others in the state.
“Little do people know that while it is small, Negri Sembilan is the state that has excised the most forest reserves for logging in peninsular Malaysia,” he said.
He said that state records showed that 8,616 hectares or 5.3 percent of forest reserve have been excised in Negri Sembilan from 2005 to 2011.
“This is under the leadership of MB Mohamad Hassan,” he said.
Meanwhile, a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) study found that from February 2001 to February 2005, 43 forest reserve area in Negri Sembilan were excised.
The largest excision was in Serting in August 2004, involving 1,690 hectares of forest reserve area.
Also at the press conference were Negri Sembilan PKR secretary Sabaruddin Mohd Yassin and Ampangan assemblyperson Rashid Latiff.