KUALA TERENGGANU - An exotic RM180,000 (S$57400) Brazilian tree planted near here to spruce up a new township has sprouted controversy.
The Ceiba Chodatii tree, also known as the silk floss tree, has a bottle-shaped trunk, was chosen by the project's contractor and was planted in December last year at one of the entry points of the project located in Kuala Nerus, about 15km from here.
The special tree has since become the talk of town.
Villagers near the new township said they liked it but critics alleged that the tree was wasteful and attacked the state government and Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Razif Abd Rahman on social media.
However, on Tuesday, Ahmad Razif said he was unaware of the tree until the news went viral on social media.
The entire new township project, including the planting of the silk-floss tree, is under the supervision of the Public Works Department, and Ahmad Razif said the tree was contributed by the project contractor.
"The mentri besar has been linked to and accused of something that he genuinely doesn't know about," said Zaini Ibrahim, director of Perunding Irzi Sdn Bhd, the lead consultant for the township project.
"There is no mention of the tree in the contract. What was made known were two iconic landmarks. The contractor thought the tree would be a great landmark and he went out of his way to choose the type of the tree," he said.
Zaini explained that the RM180,000 covered the cost of buying the 3.5m tree and transporting it from Brazil.
A second Ceiba chodatii tree, which is scheduled to arrive in six months, will be planted at another entry point to the township.
Zaini said that apart from the two trees, the 100ha land would also be planted with local trees and plants.
Nearby residents who have seen the tree gave it their thumbs-up.
"It's a beautiful tree. I am sure it will be an attraction some day and the spillover would be enjoyed by the local traders when we have many visitors," said Noor Azirah Wahab, 27, from Kampung Bukit Bayas.
Mohd Zulkifli Abdul Rani Zaki, 33, a trader from Kampung Gong Datok, Gong Badak said it was a pity that the tree had drawn bad publicity as he felt that it would capture the hearts of many.
Nor Haslinda Ali, 26, a mother of two from Gong Badak here said the state government and its agencies should not feel worried.
"We can't satisfy everyone," she said.