CAMERON HIGHLANDS, April 15, 2015:
Farmers are set to take part in a protest rally in Ringlet at 10am today against the government’s move to evict farmers occupying state land.
Former Tanah Rata assemblyman Datuk Ho Yip Kap is expected to lead the protest.
He claimed many farmers had their temporary occupation licence (TOL) revoked by the authorities without prior notice as part of Ops Gading.
Ops Gading, under the National Security Council (MKN) is a continuous operation to clear illegal farms in Cameron Highlands and to nab illegal immigrants hired to operate them.
The massive operation involved the police, Immigration Department, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the police’s General Operations Force and armed forces.
“The farming community had been disturbed by the ongoing demolition of farms in the region including those with TOLs, which are generally issued for five to 15 years with annual renewals and rental fees.
“If this continues, many farmers will be left without their source of income including some who have been working on their farms for more than 30 years.
“At least 80% of the farm lands in Ringlet alone will be affected,” he told The Rakyat Post when contacted today.
Taking exception to labelling farmers as land grabbers, Ho said they were just trying to earn an honest living which revolved around “back-breaking” work.
He hoped that the authorities would look kindly upon them in consideration of their past contributions to the local economy.
Ho added farmers were hoping to engage the authorities to resolve the issue.
Local farmer Wong Seng Yee said it would be a travesty of justice if farmers were forced to vacate, especially at short notice.
“Why are the small farmers being penalised when it is mostly large farms which are responsible for most of the illegal clearings?”
“The situation looks bleak for now but we hope it will be an opportunity to resolve the issue of cultivating land illegally.”
Wong said an alternative would be to switch to low-land farming although it would not be easy.
In December last year, it was reported that 7,000ha of state land here had been encroached by farmers as a result of rapid expansion and intensification of farming.
Many farmers had extended their farms beyond the TOL areas granted to them with little or no enforcement and control due to the lure of a an ever increasing lucrative market.
This resulted in seriously polluted streams and groundwater.
Cameron Highlands farmers supply over half of Malaysia’s vegetable needs, generating sizeable income for the economy including export earnings.