Up to state to act against landowners over Cameron floods, says Zahid

Five people were killed and 90 others evacuated after a flood-induced landslide at Kampung Raja in Ringlet and Lembah Bertam in Cameron Highlands on November 5. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Five people were killed and 90 others evacuated after a flood-induced landslide at Kampung Raja in Ringlet and Lembah Bertam in Cameron Highlands on November 5. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

PUTRAJAYA, Nov 23 — The onus falls on the local authorities in Cameron Highlands to pursue landowners who allowed the illegal clearing blamed for the recent deadly floods in the tourist haven, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said today.

He said the federal authorities will instead focus on dealing with the prevalence of illegitimate foreign workers, which includes charging employment agents and employers for hiring them.

“Land comes under the state’s authority, so it is up to the state to take action,” he said on the sidelines of a news conference here after officiating at the Film Censorship Board’s 60th anniversary Carnival.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced that police and armed forces personnel would be mobilised to Cameron Highlands to crack down on illegal land clearing activities that are believed to be carried out by illegal immigrant workers at night.

He said the federal and Pahang state governments will also work closely together to implement stricter and more effective enforcement of immigration and labour laws to deal with the proliferation of illegal immigrants in the area, which is also known for its agriculture industry.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar today said the federal authorities are working on an integrated operation to detain illegal migrant workers in the area.

“It has been stepped up, both police presence as well as military personnel presence. So we carry out operations under the MBOS concept, including joint patrols and operations,” he said, referring to the Malaysian Blue Ocean Strategy.

Five people were killed and 90 others evacuated after a flood-induced landslide at Kampung Raja in Ringlet and Lembah Bertam in Cameron Highlands on November 5.

The incident was attributed to rampant illegal land clearing in the highlands, a situation that Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said was exacerbated by poor enforcement of the law.

Meanwhile, Zahid today said the federal government has no say in the approval of foreign nationals hired to work in Sarawak, where three people were killed in a coal mine explosion yesterday morning.

He said the state has full autonomy when it comes to immigration matters, giving the Sarawak state government the power to grant work passes to workers “from any part of the world”.

The minister was responding to a question as to why 46 North Korean nationals were among the 119 foreign workers employed at the coal mine in Pantu, near Sri Aman, where the deadly blast happened.

As of yesterday evening, a Fire and Rescue Department forensics team was still waiting for safety approval from the Hazardous Materials Unit (Hazmat) before they could conduct investigations at the blast site.

The department told national news agency Bernama that preliminary investigations found that the blast was caused by sparks from a faulty fan which ignited a gas fire and explosion in the 700-metre-long tunnel.