KUANTAN: The state government has handed over 22 more forest reserve land use permits for smallholders in Cameron Highlands, says Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail.
He said the permits were only granted to farmers who had worked the land for more than 10 years, alleviating their worry that the land would be seized by authorities.
"The Barisan Nasional state government is also concerned. Even though we knew farming on the land was done without permits previously, we did not disturb them because they were trying to earn a living," he said before chairing the state exco meeting in Lipis on Wednesday (Jan 23).
Wan Rosdy said the state government could consider more applications for approval if it finds that the land had been worked on for more than 10 years, no rules were broken and the area was suitable.
He said a total of 73 permits have been granted so far with the previous ones issued on Dec 12 last year.
Of the total, 64 of the recipients were Chinese farmers, five were Indians and the rest were Malays and orang asli.
Each of the recipients was allocated a maximum of 2.02ha of land but had to pay a RM3,000 fine for illegal use of the land previously and another RM1,500 fee for the permit.
Wan Rosdy said the move had been proposed when he was still an exco member but could not be carried out immediately because land surveying had to be done on sensitive areas especially highlands like Tanah Rata.
"It has to be scrutinised carefully and if there are no problems, then only the state government can consider for approval. I have been told by the state Forestry Department director that there are more applications and we will try to help," he said.
Wan Rosdy advised the recipients to make good use of the land and farm according to the approved limits.
"The state government will not tolerate large-scale farmers and syndicates that encroach upon the land illegally up to 20ha or 24ha. They will face action," he said.