PETALING JAYA: Environmental experts have slammed Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel’s proposal that illegal farm operators in Cameron Highlands be given temporary occupation licences (TOLs).
Malaysian Nature Society conservation head Balu Perumal said the TOL issue was in fact the source of Cameron Highlands’ land woes over the past few years due to the nature of its impermanence.
He stressed that it was impossible to continue issuing TOLs while promoting environmental sustainability as farmers had no incentives to invest in their farms.
“The authorities must seek a long-term answer. Farmers must also lobby to get long-term tenureship of their land so they are confident about making high-capital, sustainable investments,” he said.
Balu urged the authorities to properly gazette farming land so that government agencies, such as the Agriculture Department, could help the farmers.
Currently, he said, the TOL did not provide a legal platform for government agencies to be involved as the supervision of the land use was solely under the state’s district office.
Palanivel, also Cameron Highlands MP, had announced this proposal last week, saying it would help curb haphazard land clearing.
He said the proposal was based on the fact that the farmers had worked on the land for years, with some already exporting their crops.
In addition, he said the various agencies involved had agreed for the farmers to be issued TOLs and maintain the land they were occupying.
R. Ramakrishnan, president of Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands said the proposal was an “extremely bad idea”.
He said residents wanted to see Palanivel take a stronger enforcement stance, adding that the Gunung Siku and Terla forest reserves had already suffered encroachment.