Ulu Yam vegetable farms eviction off: Victory for the farmers thanks to pressure mounted by DAP and NGOs

Media Statement
by Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew

(Petaling Jaya,  Tuesday): It’s a big relief and victory for the Ulu Yam Farmers. The pending eviction is off and they can continue to grow vegetables to earn a living for their families. We have saved the most valuable vegetable farms in Selangor.

Selangor MB Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo has called off the pending eviction and agreed to let out the farmlands to the farmers after visiting the Ulu Yam vegetable farms yesterday. Khir Toyo would not have changed his mind without the pressure mounted by DAP and other NGOs like the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Selangor Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Vegetable Farmers. The media has also done a good job by reporting the controversy widely. One local Chinese daily should be commended for publishing a special feature report continuously over 3 days.

DAP has intervened in the case upon receiving complaints from the farmers at a time when MCA has given up all hopes. The Selangor Exco member Datuk Ch’ng Toh Eng who happens to be the advisor of the Selangor Vegetable Farmers Association have told the farmers to leave their farms within three weeks on 23 February 2005.Ch’ng has broken the bad news to the farmers a day after the MCA President Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting openly directed him to resolve the matter as reported in the press! Ch’ng has earlier openly blamed the DAP for politicizing the matter and has threatened to wash his hands.

DAP has helped the farmers to bring their plight to the Parliament on 9 December 2004. We have also helped prepare a memorandum to be presented to the Prime Minister, the Agriculture and Agro-Industry Minister, the Chairman of Backbenchers Club and the Opposition Leader. Our two Selangor state assemblymen have also spoken up for the farmers by raising the matter in the state assembly in December last year.

The Minister of Agriculture and Agro-Industry has sent his officials to visit the farms shortly after receiving the farmers’ memorandum from DAP MP for Bukit Mertajam Chong Eng. They were supportive of retaining the farms after seeing the valuable farms with their own eyes.

But the Selangor MB was adamant despite of the disagreement expressed by the Ministry of Agriculture. He just wanted the farms to give way to a housing project under the state investment arm PNSB without any justification.

DAP continues to defend the farmers by demanding the Prime Minister to intervene directly. We maintained that the pending destruction of the Ulu Yam vegetable farms equals to open and direct defiance to the national agricultural policy declared personally by the PM in his 2004 Budget, and such action taken by the state government will certainly erode the credibility of the Pak Lah’s administration.

But the worries of the farmers were not totally over unless and until they obtain the titles for their farmlands. They deserve to own the lands for they have submitted their applications some 30 to 40 years by now.

Would the Selangor MB now go one step further to approve their applications?

Just a week ago, I have seen a Selangor developer putting up advertisements in the newspapers to sell agricultural plots by the acres. If Khir Toyo can alienate government lands for the developers for profit-making, we do not see why he cannot help the vegetable farmers.

Would the Federal Government help to legalize the status of all vegetable farmers who said to be farming illegally on government’s lands?

The Federation of Vegetable Farmers has estimated that more than 70% of the current farmers were farming “illegally” in the country. This situation has reflected badly on the government.

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has our full support when he earmarks agriculture as the third engine of growth for the Malaysia. It’s time for the PM to walk the talk.


* Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew, DAP International Secretary and NGO bureau chief