Make it official, offer land to Chemor farmers, urges PSM

PSM chairman Dr Michael Jeyakumar says it will be good if the Perak government rents its unused land for agriculture as it will help boost food production.

PETALING JAYA: PSM, which has been fighting for the rights of Chemor farmers whose land has been given to the Perak football team, today denied any knowledge of any offer of alternative plots to those affected.

PSM chairman Dr Michael Jeyakumar also said the party and farmers had no knowledge of any “series of discussions” that the state government had claimed it had held with the farmers who had been tilling the Chemor land for five decades.

However, he said it was still good news if indeed the Perak government was willing to offer alternative land for cultivation to the affected farmers.

“The state government should come out with an actual offer. They should send a letter to all these farmers,” he said today.

Jeyakumar was responding to the statement from the Perak menteri besar’s office yesterday that the state will offer nearby land at Tanah Hitam, Chemor, at “reasonable rental”, to the affected farmers to continue cultivating.

It said ownership of the earmarked land was currently being transferred from the state government to the Perbadanan Pembangunan Pertanian Negeri Perak (PPPNP).

PSM chairman Dr Michael Jeyakumar meeting the affected farmers earlier last week.

The statement said the Perak Land and Mines Department had held a series of discussions with all the affected farmers and claimed an understanding had been reached with them.

It further alleged that more than 24,000ha of land owned by the state and government-linked companies (GLCs) had been encroached upon throughout Perak over several decades.

This had disrupted development projects, affordable housing schemes, economic activities and Perak’s efforts to attract investors, it added.

“At the same time, we will assist small-time farmers to continue their agricultural activities legally by renting land from the state and state GLCs at affordable rates.”

The land issue came to light when a group of seven farmers from Chemor sent an appeal letter to the Perak football team to save their land which had been handed over to the footballers by the state in recognition of their excellent performance in winning the Malaysia Cup final last year against Terengganu.

The farmers, in an open letter on Friday, had urged the football team to come to their rescue after they suddenly received eviction notices to vacate the land from the state authorities.

In an open letter, the farmers — who cultivate 2-5 acres (0.8ha to 2ha) each — said their families had been tilling the land in Ulu Chemor, Hulu Kinta, for a long time and it was their only source of income.

They said they were shocked when they received the notice from the Kinta Land Office on July 5, ordering them to move out within 14 days or risk a RM500,000 fine or a jail term of up to five years.

Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu had announced on May 3 that the 39 Perak footballers and officials will be granted land.

Jeyakumar claimed the MB’s office statement seemed like an afterthought after the plight of the farmers was highlighted in the media.

“It’s really mysterious. These seven farmers were definitely not informed.

“There has been no notice of any invitation for discussions.”

Jeyakumar said there were a lot of small and big commercial farmers in Perak.

He said if the state implements its announced policy of renting out land at affordable rates, it will be good for the country’s food production and will reduce imports.