Conversation with Tun Jeanne Abdullah

Tun Jeanne A.

Tun Jeanne A

When Tun Jeanne Abdullah met the three MYD members (Jolene, Thomas, Emily) in Paris Declaration, we ended up chatting passionately about our tropical rainforests (I felt pity for the people waiting in line to talk to her though, we chatted for such a while).

The three of us were presented with the golden chance to meet our honorable former Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Badawi and his spouse, Tun Jeanne Abdullah in The  Declaration launching ceremony on the 7 Dec 2015. We were very lucky to get Tun Jeanne’s attention and that was how we ended up being invited by her for a casual chat on the same table. From there, we got to know that Tun Jeanne is the chairman of the Board of Trustee of Tropical Rainforest Conservation Research Centre (TRCRC), who had been working on forestry conservation for the past few years.

She was telling us the beauty and richness of our very own tropical rainforests, specifically on the valuable woods that we have, such as the precious Gaharu timber. Due to many of the illegal loggings and uncontrolled deforestation to make way for palm oil plantation, Malaysia’s timber production has been dwindling. It is a pity when we resolved to importing timbers when our fertile land could produce better quality ones.

Tun Jeanne also pointed out that we could acquire many new insights through learning from the forest, this include  the indigenous people’s knowledge on forest management. Hence it is very essential to raise more awareness especially among the people in the urban areas who are quite disconnected with the nature so they will appreciate this golden national asset we have. It is as if there is an entirely untouched chapter on natural rainforest and indigenous knowledge that our people are missing. I understand that more need to be done in this matters and vowed to be doing more in this.

The day we had this conversation became even more meaningful  when it was the same day where our Minister of Natural Resources & Environment (NRE) , YB Dato Sri Dr. Haji Wan Junaidi bin Tuanku Jaafar pledged to preserve 50% of our national land as forests with healthy forest and zero deforestation in the COP plenary this morning!

Oh let me share with you an awesome initiative by Tun Jeanne’s founding organisation- Landskap Malaysia, called the “3313” . Anyone can have a tree planted on behalf of them for just RM33 in the organisation’s living collection sites which are either in forest reserves or national parks. The coordinates of the trees planted will be revealed to their contributors and we can visit our trees ! I love this idea as it must be an exciting journey to revisit your own tree and watch them growth throughout the years. Imagine watching it looks so fragile and new and the next time when you come back, it is all tall and hard, offering shade for you (of course that depends on the species).

I found this particular initiative stood out from other tree planting events where they are normally a one-shot session and rarely let people to trace back the trees that they have planted. Plus, if I were to choose, I would prefer to plant my own tree in a real forest than in a city to be honest. To me, replant a forest is more important because of its higher biodiversity value and rich ecosystem services. But of course, fragmented forests and those urban forests should also be retained. As more population is going to stay in cities, it is essential to create more green space which is near to us. Remember, we are also part of the nature!

It was an inspiring evening for me, after all. Tun Jeanne inspired me by her down to earth attitude on doing all these amazing forest conservation work. Most importantly, she is very keen to share her knowledge generously with us- the youth. I am happy to get her acknowledgement and encouragement on what I want to do for the environment. This is definitely a booster for me. I would love to have more conversation with her back in Malaysia later! On a side note, she is a very caring and patient wife to Tun Abdullah Badawi. I found both of them really cute and loving even at this age

Written by: Emily
Edited by: Wanji

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