Bypassed for development

THEY have been subjected to the harsh weather conditions all their life, toiling under the scorching sun and struggling to save their produce during the monsoon season.

These farmers and breeders in Perak have soldiered on for generations without any complaints.

Most importantly, they never rely on or hope for any form of aid from the government to survive.

They may be poor but are dignified people, earning a decent living and contributing to the country’s food production all this while.

How many of us have actually given their sacrifices a thought? 

While they have survived all forms of hardship all this while, they are helpless now simply because they are facing eviction from the land after the Perak government awarded the farmland to other organisations and individuals — except the farmers — in the name of development.

Early this month,  at least 500 of the affected farmers in Perak, mostly near Ipoh, have come out in the open asking for help from the Perak Mentri Besar.

The farms are mostly within or next to new villages, where the residents have been staying since the late 1940’s or even earlier.

This group of farmers and breeders alone are said to produce RM30 mil worth of produce annually to help in the country’s food production.

It is disturbing to learn of their plight, how they have been ignored by the authorities all this while, only to be served an eviction notice, hauled to court or received news of pending eviction now.

In short, they will not be in such dire straits if the authorities had recognised their existence and contributions.

They only know how to do farming, something they have done all their life.

As one farmer said: “When we stop farming, we have no other means to survive.”

The affected farms are in areas including Siputeh and Kampung Bali in Tronoh; Changkat Kinding; Ampang in Ipoh; Chenderong: Tanjung Tualang; Tanah Hitam; Kanthan and Kuala Kuang in Chemor; Malim Nawar; Batu Puteh; Kampung Banit and Sungai Kroh in Tapah; Batu Gajah; Temoh; Sungei Siput; Biovalley Kampar and Mambang Diawan in Kampar; Pusing; Papan; Lawan Kuda in Gopeng; and Chenderiang.

I really wonder what is the type of development that is going to take place in these areas? 

As there appears to be no shortage of land in Perak, why are the farm areas being targeted then? 

About three years ago, the state government, under Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, had set up a special committee to look into the land issues such as farming on land without a title faced by farmers and breeders in the state.

According to then MCA president and Perak MCA chairman Tan Sri Dr Chua Soi Lek, Perak has the highest incidence of such cases.

Perak executive councillor Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon had been entrusted to head the committee to help the farmers and breeders.

What is the progress of the work under the committee? 

Is the committee still valid.?

Anyhow, the farmers deserve to know the findings and recommendations from the committee after harbouring hope on this.

They may not have a lease or title to the land, but they have been adding value to it all these years.

Their livelihood and that of their elderly parents and young children are at stake.

They have nowhere to turn to.

The authorities can have big plans for development but this does not mean that the interest of the poor can be completely ignored.

The farmers have pinned their last hope on the Mentri Besar and have requested to meet him.

They are now grouped under the “Save Perak Breeders and Farmers Affiliation” to have a louder voice.

But it looks like their voices are not loud enough.

Its coordinator, K. Segar, was reported saying earlier this month that Dr Zambry ‘s special officer Faiezi Zuber had told them that the Mentri Besar did not want to meet them.

Instead, Faiezi had advised the farmers to deal with the respective landowners who were trying to evict them.

He also advised the farmers to approach the respective organisations — state agriculture development corporation and Mentri Besar Incorporated on their own.

As for cases which had already gone to court, Faiezi also told the farmers to let it be.

Well, there is no need for the farmers to seek the Mentri Besar’s help as a last resort if the suggestions by Faiezi are workable.

The farmers are fighting a losing battle.

This is not even a legal tussle to begin with as the farmers and breeders are not lawful owners of the land they occupied.

It does not matter how long they have been toiling on the land.

In other words, the new landowners (individuals, companies or organisations who got the land from the government) are the lawful owners.

The court’s decision is obvious.

Having said that, not every problem can be or must be solved by going to court.

As one former politician put it: “There is no need for the farmers to seek the help of politicians if they can resolve their problems.” 

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