CAMERON HIGHLANDS, April 17, 2015:

Farmers may yet be able to save their farms from demolition by reporting to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

Bulldozing of farms by the authorities under Ops Gading has been ongoing since late last year for encroaching on state lands illegally.

Regional Environmental Awareness of Cameron Highlands (Reach) president Ramakrishnan Ramasamy said farmers must provide details on any relevant documents or other information that may help MACC in their assessment.

Farmers must start to defend themselves from being victimised rather than swallowing their disappointment and anger, he said. “MACC has always encouraged members of the public to report suspected corrupt conduct involving or affecting the civil sector. “Farmers need not worry about retributions as they are afforded protection under the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010,” he told The Rakyat Post when asked to comment on a recent protest by Cameron Highlands farmers. He acknowledged that farming is an all important source of livelihood for the locals and it should not provide a fertile environment for the unscrupulous. He has spoken out many times that corruption was particularly serious in helping to devastate large tracts of pristine forests in Cameron Highlands to make way for farming and other “projects”. Ramakrishnan has also been vocal on grave concerns that locals have to take the “backdoor route” simply to earn a living and for security. “Coffee money”, “tea money”, or whatever they call it, has became not only familiar, but is also accepted with resignation as a necessary way of life by many Cameron Highlands folks. On Wednesday, some 300 farmers and their family members staged a protest in Ringlet, led by former Tanah Rata assemblyman Datuk Ho Yip Kap. According to Ho, they are feeling hopeless and desperate as the authorities seem determined to weed out illegal farm lands under Ops Gading. The farmers, unsuccessful in bringing the matter to the negotiation table, have also cried foul. Despite consistently renewing their temporary occupation licence (TOL) issued by the land office, they were recently informed that they now needed a permit from the Forestry Department instead. The reason given is because the farms are within forest reserve boundaries following delineation in 1998. It is estimated that at least half the existing farms in Cameron Highlands would be demolished by the time the Ops Gading comes to an end. Ops Gading, under the National Security Council, is a continuous operation to clear illegal farms in Cameron Highlands and to nab illegal immigrants hired to operate them. Besides MACC, the massive operation which started in October last year also involved the Immigration Department, General Operations Force, Armed Forces and police.

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