Two ways to solve evicted Kuala Terla farmers’ problem

With regard to the enforcement operation against 61 farms located at Ipoh Road, Cameron Highlands, 1 had brought farmers who are being evicted to the Parliament in order to submit a memorandum to federal ministers.

Pakatan Harapan’s leaders accompanying farmers to the Parliament are Bagan Dalam State Assemblyman Satees Muniandy and President of Malaysian Tamilar Kular David Marshel. Later, Minister of Water, Land and Natural Resources YB Dr. Xavier Jayakumar, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry YB Sim Tze Tzin, Chairman of the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) YB Charles Santiago, Member of Parliament for Jelutong YB Sanisvara Nethaji Rayer, Member of Parliament for Kampar YB Su Keong Siong, as well as Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan YB Kasthuri Patto represented the Federal Government to accept the memorandum.

Ever since the enforcement operation started, i have been working with the farmers’ association to draft several proposals aimed at solving the Sungai Ichat problem. There are two ways to solve the problem, but the State Government must first suspend its enforcement operation and engage with all quarters in order to achieve a win-win situation.

First, building a mini dam at the upstream of Sungai Ichat as well as installing a pipe that can bypass the farms and channel water supply directly to the water treatment plant. This will ensure the safety of water supply without having to evict the farmers, or, second, searching another area to be developed as the Permanent Food Production Park (Taman Kekal Pengeluaran Makanan) to relocate the farmers.

Currently the river that provides 70% of water supply to Cameron Highlands is Sungai Terla, while the State Government is merely planning to retrieve the land where Sungai Ichat is located for future use. There is therefore ample time and space for the farmers and relevant authorities to have dialogues and to look for a win-win solution. We don’t see any urgency to evict the farmers hastily without giving them a way out.

I would like to remind the State Government that the issue is affecting 61 farms and hundreds of farming families, of which the majority of them have been farming for 40 to 50 years, or more. This is not purely an environmental issue, but social and economic impacts are also at stake. It is undoubtedly important for the State Government to ensure the safety of water catchment area, but it should at the same time treat the farmers in a humane way and to offer them a way out.

Minister of Water, Land and Natural Resources Dr. Xavier Jayakumar also highlighted that he had made calls to the Pahang Menteri Besar and State Secretary, hoping to postpone the operation and to engage with the farmers. Nevertheless, land-related matters are under the jurisdiction of the state government, and therefore the federal government can only provides suggestions but not interfere in the decisions made by the state government.

Chiong Yoke Kong
Media statement by Chiong Yoke Kong in Cameron Highlands on Wednesday, 10th April 2019