Demolition of Cameron Highlands farms an injustice

One hundred and twenty-one hectares of vegetable and flower farms managed by some 60 hardworking Malaysians at Kuala Terla, Cameron Highlands, were demolished recently.

Hindraf 2.0’s visit to the site on Jan 8 found that the produce of these third-generation Indian families – who have little political and economic power – are exported to Singapore and Thailand.

They were also granted annual temporary occupation licences (TOL) for the land on which they toiled.

Which is why the excuse given by authorities to demolish the site – that they were polluting the Ichat river, despite the fact that the drinking water supply is sourced from the Kuala Terla River – was puzzling.

Hence, the demolition was done in bad faith.

The farmers should have been given ample notice and allocated other plots of land to continue farming as the Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Barisan Nasional-led state governments had almost always done for other farming communities.

The farmers should have also been provided with subsidies, fertilisers, pesticides, modern farming technology, electricity supply as well as basic infrastructure.

They had to take huge banks loans and had invested up to even RM2 million each. Following the demolition, they have literally been reduced to ruins and are now in debt.

It is said that among the “real reasons” for the demolition of the farms are “political play” by Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional, including for not voting for Umno, and the allocation of new vegetable and flower farms run by outsiders with political connections.

New TOL land, located next to the demolished farms, is said to have been be granted to “favoured” people.

Thousands of Bangladeshi and other foreign workers are said to be the de facto owners of the TOL land, operating farms apparently with the knowledge of the Cameron Highlands Land Office, police, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and Immigration Department.

This denies some Malaysians with biotechnology and farming experience the opportunity to run their own farms.

In the midst of the Malaysia Baru and 1Malaysia sloganeering, are our political leaders acting in the interest of the general public and civil society?

The farmers should not only be compensated but also given farm land by both the PH federal government and BN state government to start life afresh.

P Uthayakumar is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.