Tawau is really a city of Oil Palm. You can see oil palm there more than everywhere else. To me, the view of sea of oil palm “forest” from the sky is quite sickening, and I have a lot to say about it.
During school days, I (and you too, probably) was so proud that Malaysia is the top exporter for oil palm, rubber, tin, cocoa… Now we all know that such raw materials are cheap. The developed countries buy our raw materials, manufacture them to make end products (e.g. cocoa to chocolate), then sell them back to us for higher price. Nothing to be proud of, really.
I am not sure if such blind patriotism “education” still goes on in schools. But I am sure that the politicians today are still fond of making HIGHEST and BIGGEST records, such as biggest flag, tallest building, longest bridge.. then pack these so-called achievement with “Malaysia Boleh!” slogan, to make everyone feels good without doing any real work. Such cheap tactic still got market here though.
Well, I really cannot see what’s the big deal of having the biggest flag in the world, tallest building in South East Asia… What should I answer if the foreigners ask, “What is so great about Malaysia?” Should I say, “We are great because we are the largest exporter of palm oil!”, or “We are great because we made the biggest mooncake in the world,” or simply “We are great because ‘Malaysia Boleh!'”
OK, let’s come back to this oil palm thing. I don’t have the statistics showing how much it helps our economy but there’s definitely a price to pay for. If we want to grow more oil palm, we have to cut down more trees to clear the forest. Due to the mass plantation of oil palm, we destroy the natural habitat of wild animals such as monkeys, apes, birds… If you read the news recently, you would know that those greedy oil plam planters invade the reserved area of Kinabatangan.
I remember someone used the analogy “You want Gold or Monkey?” to support the mining of coal in Maliau Basin? If you ask me, I will say that monkey is more important. No matter how many oil palm we plant and sell, we cannot make more gold than the developed countries. And most of the gold will go to the minority, those ruthless planters, who contribute partially to the illegal immigrant (worst type of wild animals) problems, dump chemical waste into the river, and show little concern to the nature.
But Monkey (means nature, forest and wildlife) is something that developed countries don’t have. That’s why in developed countries such as Canada, you need to apply for a license just to cut a tree in your neighbourhood. That’s why the westerners pay us Gold (money) to see the monkeys. Eco-tourism could be our future. The more appropriate way to describe the choice is “You want Gold or Gold-Egg-Laying Goose?” It is more than just a monkey.