Residents uneasy over ‘gold rush’


  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 20 Aug 2003

A 'GOLD rush' has been reported near a Felda scheme in Terengganu's Setiu district after local villagers spotted specks of the glittering mineral in nearby Sungai Siput some six months ago. 

At first, prospectors used the dulang (panning) method of extracting but lately some people, purportedly from outside the Chalok Barat village, had brought in heavy machines into the area, reported Berita Harian

“We are worried the heavy machines will bring disaster to the place,” a villager told the paper, recalling a tragedy in the 80s when droves of people went to Lubok Mandi, in nearby Marang district, to prospect for gold. 

In that 1989 incident,12 people were killed in a landslip resulting from excessive digging and tunnelling by prospectors. The 'mine' has since been out of bounds to the public. 

The Chalok Barat prospectors said there is comparatively lesser gold at their place, saying they do it largely on a part-time basis to earn an extra RM10 to RM40 a day for their family upkeep. 

Rice, the staple food of Malaysians, has become a major national issue following a disclosure by Agriculture Minister Datuk Seri Effendi Norwawi that the national padi corporation Bernas had incurred losses of up to RM27mil to smugglers. 

On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said rice smuggling is akin to “economic sabotage” and culprits are warned that they are liable to be held under the Internal Security Act. 

In a special report, Utusan Malaysia said smuggled goods, including rice, had, for many years, given people living along the Kelantan-Thai border a lucrative income. 

A task force, combining the expertise of the Agriculture, Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, Home and Information Ministries as well as the police, Customs Department and Bernas, was formed in 2000 to combat the smugglers. 

However, consumers are not co-operating with the authorities to nab the culprits and, in fact, smuggled rice continue to be in increasing demand. 

The paper said the amount of rice smuggled – something like 200,000 tonnes last year –showed there are inadequacies in official measures to curb the illegal rice importation, often done via vans, lorries, trains and boats. 

The daily said consumers should show more concern for local growers, millers and distributors, who are consistently upgrading the quality of their production and services. 

“In this age of technology, there has been an immense improvement in the country's padi and rice industry and producers are able to give consumers quality rice at reasonable prices. 

“There is no need to resort to smuggling rice,” the paper said, adding that more discerning consumers can find a variety of imported rice in the market, which has been legally brought into the country. 

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