An Interview with YB Teresa Kok

A) About YB Teresa Kok

Biography For Teresa Kok, Minister of Primary Industries

Teresa Kok is the Minister of Primary Industries in the Malaysian Cabinet which overlooks national commodities like palm oil, rubber, timber, pepper and cocoa. She is the Deputy Secretary-General of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), a partner in the national ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan.



EDUCATION

She holds a Bachelor of Communication from Universiti Sains Malaysia, in Penang, in 1990, and obtained a Master of Philosophy from University of Malaya. Her thesis was on United Malays National Organization (UMNO), titled "Factionalism in Umno during Dr Mahathir's Era (1981– 2001)". She is fluent in Mandarin, English and Bahasa Malaysia.


POLITICS

Her foray into politic begun in 1990 when she was appointed as a political secretary to the then Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang. She contested in her first parliamentary election as a candidate for DAP in Ipoh Barat seating 1995, but lost. In 1999, she won the Seputeh Parliamentary seat in Kuala Lumpur.


She has held the seat in subsequent four general elections, with increased majority each time. She received the highest majority votes in the country during the 2008 and 2013 elections, with 36,492 and 51,552 majority votes respectively. She was Kinrara state assemblyman for the 2008-2013 term and Selangor State Minister for Investment, Trade and Industry, after the then Pakatan Rakyat opposition pact which DAP was part of, took over the Selangor state government in 2008.


She was appointed into the Cabinet of Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad following the historical 2018 general election in Malaysia, which saw Pakatan Harapan defeating the Barisan Nasional Government after 60 years in power.


CHALLENGES

During her long political career, she endured a 7-day arrest in 2008 under the now-abolished Internal Security Act that allowed for detention without trial. She sued the Government for wrongful arrest and won her case in the Federal Court in 2017.


B) Interview Questions

1. One of the Ministry of Primary Industries’ efforts to fight on anti-palm oil campaigns that are threatening the people's livelihood is with the launching of ‘Love My Palm Oil’ campaign. How was the idea invented and what are the expectations for the campaign?

The palm oil industry is currently facing heightened anti-palm oil sentiments and negative perception globally especially from the Western Countries. Nevertheless, the negative antipalm oil sentiments have also spread among Malaysians. On this note, when I was appointed as the Primary Industries Minister, I felt the need to instil pride and awareness among Malaysian towards our palm oil, our “golden crop” as palm oil is one of the major contributors to the economy of Malaysia.


The campaign focuses on socio-economic, health and environmental aspects related to palm oil industry. The main objectives of this campaign is to inculcate the pride on palm oil among Malaysians, as well as to raise awareness, educate, recognise and appreciate the contribution of the palm oil industry to the country. This effort will be carried out through joint education programmes with schools, colleges and universities in Malaysia and our overseas students. Among the activities that have been undertaken are the Palm Oil Ambassadors Programme. Through this programme, we will encourage the young Malaysian to defend false accusations on palm oil and speak about the benefits of palm oil.


2. The Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) has been made mandatory by the end of 2019 as a move towards branding Malaysian palm oil as sustainably produced and safe. The challenge is with getting all the smallholders that are accounted for about 40 per cent of the country’s palm oil production, to be certified. How does MPI overcome this issue?

Getting all the smallholders to be certified with MSPO is one of the biggest challenges faced by MPI. This is due to the fact that the number of smallholders is huge which is more than half a million. There are two categories of smallholders namely independent smallholders (ISH) and organized smallholders (OSH). Their land is scattered and remotely located which is sometime difficult to be reached. The definition of ISH is an individual that owns oil palm farm less than 40.46 hectares and manages the farm themselves. The definition of OSH is an individual that owns oil palm farm less than 40.46 hectares and the farm is being managed by an agency such as Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA), Federal Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (FELCRA), Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Agency (RISDA) and state agencies.


In overcoming this issue, MPOB has rolled out all their TUNAS officers as well as utilizing all of their enforcement officers to be involved to reach to the smallholders and assist them to get the MSPO certification. MPOB has established a cluster system, known as Sustainable Palm Oil Cluster (SPOC) that gathers ISH into manageable groups in order to help them obtain MSPO certification. There are 162 SPOC being developed by MPOB throughout Malaysia including Sabah and Sarawak. On average, 1 SPOC contains about 1,500 ISH. The number of TUNAS officers in charge in the SPOC now has increased from 162 to 550 officers with an average of three officers for every SPOC. The KPI for every SPOC is also being set at 500 ISH for every SPOC being certified by the end of this year.


The Government also gives 100% MSPO incentive for the ISH to help cover the cost of training, auditing, chemical store and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Apart from that, we are also working closely with state agencies in Sabah and Sarawak i.e Agriculture Department of Sabah and Sarawak as well as local associations and NGOs like DOPPA, SOPPOA and many more to help us to get in touch with the smallholders to get them aware and proceed with the certification processes.



3. Besides curbing and fighting European Union (EU) ban on palm oil, other challenges in the country itself is within the indigenous community as there is groundless rumour that palm oil industry threaten their livelihood. Could you briefly explain in regards with MPI plan to counterattack the rumour?

First of all, I would like to emphasize that my Ministry is working seriously and working very hard to ensure that sustainable cultivation of oil palm and sustainable management of the entire palm oil supply change become the accepted norm for Malaysian palm oil. I am glad to inform that, in March 2019, the Government of Malaysia agreed with the Ministry’s proposal in ensuring our oil palm is cultivated in a sustainable manner. These measures include: