LETTER | With regard to the enforcement operation against 61 farms located at Ipoh Road, Cameron Highlands, farmers who are being evicted were brought to the Parliament in order to submit a memorandum to federal ministers.
Pakatan Harapan leaders accompanying farmers to the Parliament were Bagan Dalam assemblyperson Satees Muniandy and Malaysian Tamilar Kular president David Marshel.
Later, Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar, Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Sim Tze Tzin, National Water Services Commission (Span) chairperson Charles Santiago, Jelutong MP Sanisvara Nethaji Rayer, Kampar MP Su Keong Siong, as well as Batu Kawan MP 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 percent 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 Pahang 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 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.
Xavier 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 provide suggestions but not interfere in the decisions made by the state government.
The writer is Tanah Rata assemblyperson.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.