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  • The jurisdiction of the Johor royalty goes way beyond what constitutional experts can expound, and will perhaps develop into a constitutional issue or a political battleground?

Sin Chew Daily

On the surface, Pulau Kukup appears to be just an environmental and ecological issue, but in reality it is a political issue (tussle between the government and royal family) that could possibly develop into a constitutional issue in future.

Kukup, the world's second largest mangrove island, was gazetted as a national park in 1997. The island is also one of the Ramsar Convention sites.

The value of Kukup lies with the fact that it is untouched by human civilization, and remains the habitat of many rare waterfowls and wetland flora. It has the functions of preventing soil erosion and mitigating flood impact.

However, the island's national park status was revoked in October, the reason unclear.

The Johor Palace subsequently wrote to the state land and mines department, highlighting that Kukup was already made a sultanate land and would continue to be a national park.

The Crown Prince claimed that being a sultanate land, Kukup's national park status would be further protected.

The incident came to public attention after Crown Prince Tunku Ismail published the letter on his Twitter.

The issue was later brought to the cabinet for discussion, and minster Xavier Jayakumar said the federal government had decided to maintain Kukup's national park status in order to protect the island's natural environment.

TMJ responded by saying that outsiders should not meddle on matters related to Johor.

And PM Mahathir rebutted by saying the federal government was not "outsider" and that the government's position was that Kukup should not be developed and he hoped the Johor Sultan would accept this.

TMJ replied that no one had wanted to develop Kukup in the first place and the Sultan's intention was to protect the natural environment of Kukup.

Well, it is obvious here that both the Johor Palace and government have wanted to preserve the national park status of Kukup and to make sure the island will not be developed.

But there comes the questions:

1.Since both sides have wanted to keep the island's national park status, why did the state government de-gazette it in the first place?

2. How did Kukup become a sultanate land after its national park status was revoked? Is Kukup immune to development after becoming a sultanate land?

3. Now who has sovereignty over Pulau Kukup? The state government or the Sultan?

Home minister and former menteri besar Muhyiddin Yassin explained that once Kukup becomes a sultanate land, its status will be changed and it is no longer a national park.

4. Does this mean if Kukup were to be re-gazetted, it would no longer be a sultanate land?

From the viewpoint of the rakyat, is the preservation of Kukup's natural environment and ecosystem bound by the laws, or royal pledge?

The Kukup controversy has brought on a bigger question: save for privately held properties, can a national park or government land be converted to sultanate land solely by the will of the Palace?

Who is the ultimate proprietor of the whole land mass in the state?

The Crown Prince said in a statement that Johor had its own constitution and own way of doing things long before Malaysia came into being.

Does that mean the Sultan's power overrides all else?

The status of Johor royalty was one of its kind during the colonial times, and has remained very much so after independence.

The jurisdiction of the Johor royalty goes way beyond what constitutional experts can expound, and will perhaps develop into a constitutional issue or a political battleground?


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