Last night, 22 February, a Kuala Lumpur-based journalist and documentary filmmaker took to his Facebook account to highlight how a forest in an area of 200 acres with two million rainforest trees is being bulldozed by Perak Corporation Bhd (PCB), a state-owned firm
In his post, that has since gone viral with over hundreds of comments from concerned netizens and more than 2,200 shares on the platform, the journalist said "the issue is of national importance" and urged local media to report about it to bring it to the attention of our elected representatives.
"Say we have a large collection of precious manuscripts in a library — a national treasure! Now they are burning the library," the journalist philosophised on his post, referring to trees as manuscripts.
According to the viral post, an 84-year-old retired planter's forest in Tanjung Malim with two million rainforest trees, many of which do not exist anywhere else, is now being destroyed for development.
The journalist, Jules Rahman Ong, makes films about marginalised communities and helps runs a public Facebook group called Fighting for Our Forest with an environmental activist named Tracy Toh.
According to the group, Fighting for Our Forest aims to "support the Temiar people in their struggle to protect the forest from deforestation and invasion of their ancestral land".
According to Ong's post, 84-year-old James Kingham planted a whole forest in an area of 200 acres, which contained 1,200 species of forest trees. However, after his lease on the land was not renewed, the state land was sold to new owners who are bulldozing everything in its path.
"James Kingham spent this life collecting precious, endemic and endangered rainforest trees often in difficult circumstances. It is a labour of love," Ong wrote, adding that as it was too painful for him to be at the land where his trees are being bulldozed, so he went to this house to talk to him.
A CNN article from 2010 described James Kingham as a former planter who now runs a rare tree nursery comprising three million seedlings of rare and endangered trees.
Kingham has relied on his knowledge and experience to help him work with the degraded soil.
In 2008, he helped transform a 7.5 hectares barren piece of land into a gene bank for endangered jungle plants, called the Lagoon Tree (Kingham-Cooper) Reserve with oil palm planter Geoffrey Cooper.
The area now resembles natural thick jungle with over 250 diverse species of trees.
Kingham spent over two decades collecting the forest trees species in difficult circumstances with the help of Orang Asli and park rangers
He then grew them in polybags and supplied to Rimba Ilmu Botanical Gardens, University Malaya, Taman Tugu Nursery, and United Plantations, a Malaysia-based oil palm plantation company.
"...most of his collection ended up in Singapore that really treasures them," Ong wrote on his post, adding that planting two million forest trees has made his rainforest nursery possibly the largest in Malaysia.
"Even Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) and Forestry Department of Peninsular Malaysia (Jabatan Perhutanan) go to him for his diverse exotic collection of seedings and tree saplings. He showed us 20 species of mangosteens and other forest fruits that we have no idea of.
"Today, bulldozers are destroying his rainforest tree collection as we speak. His lease on the land has not been renewed and the state land has been sold to new owners. The Perak Corporation (PCB) has taken over the development and are bulldozing everything in its path," Ong continues on his post.
According to the journalist, while the retired planter can't fight for land rights, the forest trees do not belong to the new owner or developer
It is a national heritage that belongs to Malaysians and to humanity.
"We went there to see and to speak with James. I also met Ally, the manager of Tropical Rainforest Tree Research Centre, who with her staff of 20 young youths whom she trained, are fighting against time to rescue the trees, often in a standoff with the tractors," Ong wrote.
"They have been working every day and have managed to save only 2000 trees from 30 species. Ally is really tough but she is crying as she spoke to us. She is fighting against time to save the remaining endangered forest tree species in the collection."
As of this writing, there has been no official response from PCB about Ong's post.