KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 30, 2015:
Farmers in Cameron Highlands are fed up and are alleging that government officials demanded bribes, says Regional Environmental Awareness of Cameron Highlands (Reach) president Ramakrishnan Ramasamy.
The farmers, according to Ramakrishnan, are alleging that they have been asking for their farms to be spared from demolition pending court cases on the legality of the farms, but government officials, leading an operation under the National Security Council, ignored them despite taking bribes.
They also alleged that only the “highest bidders” were left “untouched” while farmers who could not pay as much were left to rue with their farms being demolished.
The operation, known as Ops Gading, had been ongoing for several months 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 involve the Immigration Department, General Operations Force, Armed Forces and police.
Verbal protests against corruption in Cameron Highlands are not uncommon, nor is bribery due to the lucrative farming industry, said Ramakrishnan, but offenders often got away due to lack of evidence.
The farmers claimed they had forked out bribes up to RM50,000 per farmer.
“Despite paying the bribes, they still lost their farms eventually.
“Now the farmers feel they have nothing to lose and are prepared to step out and name the corrupt officials.
“In doing so, they are prepared to risk prosecution by the authorities for illegal farming,” he told The Rakyat Post.
Ramakrishnan said the farmers had agreed to meet journalists to highlight corruption in Cameron Highlands by showing the relevant documents.
He added that the farmers had also lodged reports with the authorities, including the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency.
“I hope the farmers will realise by now that bribery is unacceptable, no matter if their farms are left untouched or demolished,” he said.