PETALING JAYA: Seven people were arrested in Cameron Highlands today after farmers staged a sit-in on a public road in an attempt to stop state government action to demolish illegal vegetable farms.
An aide to the Pahang menteri besar and 11 local council members resigned from their posts today in protest.
About 200 people took part in a demonstration at the entrance to Jalan Ipoh, Kuala Terla, in Cameron Highlands, leading to the arrest of six farmers and a former politician, police said.They were later released on bail.
Cameron Highlands OCPD Ashari Abu Samah said the police tried to persuade the farmers to stand down but failed. “The situation became chaotic when they refused to disperse, they brought women, children under 15, some as young as 5 years, 6 years old, sitting on the road causing a traffic jam,” he said.
Arumugam AV Pillai, special duties officer to the Pahang menteri besar, told FMT that he and 11 members of the local council had resigned in protest against the clearances. He said the farmers who were present could only weep when they were unable to stop the government action.
“MIC have negotiated with the state government to find the best way to proceed, and when the menteri besar (Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail) could not solve the problem, I, as the MIC representative in Pahang, failed. I have to take responsibility,” said Arumugam.
“The 11 local council members and I are resigning,” he said, adding that he hoped Wan Rosdy would provide the farmers with an alternative plot of land to continue farming.
Pahang state secretary Sallehuddin Ishak said the enforcement team acted to ensure the safety of the environment and that of the surrounding residents.
He said notice to clear the land was issued 10 years ago but the area was still host to illegal farming and a second notice was issued on Feb 18.
The enforcement officers carried out the first batch of clearances from Feb 25 to March 19.
He said action was taken under Section 425(1) of the National Land Code 1965 for staying on government property without permission.
“The state government always ensures that the action its enforcement teams carry out follow the ‘rule of law’,” he said.
“As proof, the demolition we carried out in Sungai Inchat before this was stopped when the farmers applied for an interim injunction from the Kuantan High Court. However, the plaintiffs withdrew their application on Sept 30.