IV. MEASURES FOR INTEGRATING ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS INTO AGRICULTURE
A. Resolving conflicts
1. Conflicts among federal and State governments
According to Mohammed Suffian (1976), Parliament is the supreme law- making body, but it cannot just make any law that it wants. The federal Constitution prescribes what laws may be made by Parliament and what laws may be made by State legislatures. Matters regarding which laws may be made are divided by the Constitution into the Federal List, the State List and the Concurrent List. There is no mention of the environment in the federal Constitution. However, matters related to the environment are included in the three lists (annex II).
The federal government, in its efforts to create uniformity in the State laws, has often acted according to the provisions in the federal Constitution in order to enact uniform legislation on matters related to the use of environmental resources by the various States. However, such a uniformity process can sometimes be hampered, as in the case of Sabah and Sarawak which prefer to stick to their own legislation because of tradition.
Since matters related to land, forest, water resources, local authority areas, fisheries and agriculture are under the jurisdiction of each State, the Department of Environment as a federal agency does not have full control over environment resources. Thus, there is an apparent conflict between federal and State authorities regarding environmental matters. For example, in implementing EIA requirements, there have been cases of a State approving certain projects even when the mandatory EIA reports by the project proponents were still awaiting approval by the Department of Environment.
In resolving the conflict concerning the ultimate decisive power, it might be possible to allow the States to form their own Departments of Environment whereas the present Department of Environment at the federal level would become a referral point and would concentrate even more on environmental research and development.
The State Departments of Environment could then concentrate on monitoring and enforcement efforts, either by using federal standards or by making their own more stringent standards. Their efforts could be carried out with the help of the local authorities since the latter are under State jurisdiction. The local authorities know their areas better and they are also responsible for approving a number of development projects.
Negotiations have always been the mainstay of resolving problems and issues in Malaysia. In fact, that method has been used not only at the national level, but also at the regional and international levels. The process should be stepped up in efforts to resolve environmental issues, especially when trying to harmonize laws and institutions when it involves issues between the States of Sabah and Sarawak and other States in Malaysia.
In addition, the federal-State conflict could be minimized under the federal Constitution provision in cases where matters regarding the country's representation in the international arena (especially in terms of agreements, treaties and Conventions) fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government.
Coordination between federal and State agencies should be improved. A clearer description of the role and responsibilities of each party is needed, and a better delineation of tasks, particularly at the State level, is also vital to bringing about the effective implementation in Malaysia of international Conventions. However, it would have to be undertaken along the lines of the legal provisions described in the federal Constitution and the States concerned.
If possible, the Scientific Authority should consist of the State level of a Federal department, otherwise a State-level department should be specifically identified to act as the Scientific Authority in that State. The department should be vested with the legal responsibility for implementing the State law related to the resource that requires regulating under the international Convention concerned.
Where the federal government has minimal jurisdiction over the environmental component and/or resource to be regulated under an international Convention, it must identify and designate a competent State agency to function as the Management Authority in that State. That requirement is relevant to Conventions that require State governments to allocate natural or other resources within their control, as well as to the State of Sarawak, where federal jurisdiction over the environment is narrow.
Clear mechanisms aimed at improving communications and information flows between the State and federal government agencies, as well as with the international secretariat of each international Convention, are also desirable.