Abang Johari. Photo: Ramidi Subari

KUCHING: It is untrue that the Sarawak government will offer 600,000 hectares (ha) of state land to the federal government for agricultural purposes.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said he was shocked to learn about the news report that quoted the Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Datuk Salahuddin Ayub as saying that the state would offer the land for planting cash corps and not palm oil.

Last Sunday, Salahuddin claimed that the Sarawak government was offering 600,000ha of state land, which had not been replanted with oil palm and needed to be developed, to any interested parties including the federal government.

Abang Johari. Photo: Ramidi Subari

“I was shocked to see the news,” Abang Johari told reporters at a press conference after launching the First Integrated Hydrogen Production Plant, Refuelling Station and Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles in Southeast Asia at Sarawak Energy Berhad’s Western Regional Office, yesterday.

He said 600,000ha equals to a million acres, which the state government cannot afford to give.

“It is just ridiculous and if I allowed that, “paloi, I juak” (I would be a fool),” he stressed.

The chief minister then said he does not know where Salahuddin got the figure.

On Sunday, a national Malay news portal carried the news saying that Salahuddin will be paying a courtesy call on Abang Johari to discuss the said land.

Salahuddin said Sarawak should diversify into planting cash crops such as corn.

At 2.30pm yesterday he paid a courtesy call on Abang Johari at Wisma Bapa Malaysia.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Jemut Masing said that he too was stunned when reporters asked the chief minster to comment on the matter.

He too said Sarawak has not agreed to give 600,000ha of state land to the federal government for planting corps.

“I, like Abang Johari, was surprised to hear about it. I am not aware of such a move. Where the information came from really puzzled me,” he told New Sarawak Tribune, yesterday.

However, Salahuddin after a courtesy call on the chief minister at Wisma Bapa Malaysia, explained to reporters that what he meant was the 600,000ha of oil palm plantations that have not been replanted.