Deputy minister: No order to allow durian farmers into Orang Asli villages

Sivarasa says the federal government would continue to talk with the Kelantan government about the plight of the Orang Asli villagers in the area.

PUTRAJAYA: Deputy Minister of Rural and Regional Development R Sivarasa today refuted claims his ministry’s officers ordered Orang Asli manning blockades in Gua Musang, Kelantan, to let durian farmers cross to their farms.

In rebutting the claims by lawyer-activist Siti Kasim, Sivarasa said he only asked the farmers to write to him when they sought permission to enter their Musang King durian farms near an Orang Asli village about three weeks ago.

“They did write to me, and then went ahead to break the barricades.

“This showed that they did not have a good intention,” he said after attending the Merdeka Day parade here.

Siti had earlier this week questioned the timing of Sivarasa’s meeting with the durian farmers which came before the barricades were forcefully removed.

Asked what transpired at the meeting between the ministry and the durian farmers, Sivarasa was evasive.

“They just told me their version of the story,” he said.

Sivarasa said the federal government would continue to talk with the Kelantan government about the plight of the Orang Asli villagers in the area.

“Not only we must protect them, we also need to preserve our forest and water resources from deforestation,” he added.

The Orang Asli had put up blockades near their settlements in Gua Musang since two years ago to keep out timber loggers and planters from what they claimed to be their customary land.

Some Orang Asli came to Putrajaya recently to meet Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to voice out their problems and urge the federal government to intervene.

The Kelantan government, which sent forestry department staff to remove some blockades early this week, said their action was according to the law.