COUNTLESS farmers and fish breeders in Perak have been living in fear of losing their source of livelihood for many decades.
Some of them had passed away and their children and grandchildren continue to be haunted by this fear.
The root of the fear is that they are toiling on state land without titles or lease all this while.
Their application for a lease to work on the land had somehow been unsuccessful.
Their plight is highlighted in the newspapers whenever they get an eviction notice.
They are helpless as nothing much can be done because the land does not belong to them.
Nevermind that they had rehabilitated the once waste land with their bare hands and the investment put in.
But what is puzzling and sad is the question why the state government did not consider their application for a lease when these farmers and breeders are contributing to the country’s food production.
They may be dismissed as squatters — technically — but the point of contention is that they had applied to the government for a lease.
After suffering in silence all the while, more than 500 farmers from 17 areas in Perak who have been working on 4, 047 ha of land for over 60 years finally came into the open on Tuesday.
Grouped under Save Perak Breeders and Farmers Affiliation, they sent a memorandum to Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir to request for his intervention and help.
While the farmers are now on the verge of losing their livelihood, I guess it is also a loss to the agriculture sector as well.
Despite all the constraints of working on land without a lease, some of them went on to become award winning farmers!
Tham Yeong Chai, 65, who rears cows for milk production, has won the first prize in the dairy category at a state-level competition and other awards as well.
In Gopeng , the ornamental fish breeders are able to meet the stringent requirements by the European Union — and most of their fishes are for the export market.
Most of the breeders do not have a lease for the land.
Once a hobby in the rural area, the rearing of ornamental fish became a source of livelihood following massive unemployment after the collapse of the tin mining industry in the 1980s.
Almost three decades down the road, their interest and talent have not only earned them a living but put them on the world map.
Their produce is reputed to be of high quality and exported to many countries.
I was told that the water and environment there is somehow conducive for ornamental fish.
But their lingering fear (of eviction) soon turned real in recent years.
Some of the breeders had already been evicted because the state government had sold the land.
There are also some who continue to wait for the lease which the state government had promised to issue shortly before the general election in May last year.