IPOH, July 25 — A group of farmers from Hulu Kinta are hoping Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu will intervene to let them keep the land on which they have long toiled, instead of allowing the government to award it to the state football team as reward for their Malaysia Cup victory last year.
PSM chairman Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj, who represented the seven farmers, said that they have been cultivating in the land for about 50 years, from the time of their forefathers.
“The farmers were shocked when they received a 14-day eviction notice dated July 5. The notice said that they could be fined RM500,000 or jailed five years or both for occupying government land.
“The notice also stated that action could be taken against the farmers without prior notice and they can be charged in court if they disobey the eviction order,” he told reporters when met at the State Secretariat Building here.
He hopes the MB will help the farmers, noting that they are constituents under Tambun, the parliamentary seat held by Ahmad Faizal.
Dr Jeyakumar pointed out that those affected are small scale farmers who occupy a small piece of land measuring between 0.81 hectares and 2.02 hectares each.
He said the farmers had sought the help of Hulu Kinta assemblyman Muhamad Arafat Varisai Mahamad after the notice was issued.
“The assemblyman contacted the Land Office and told the farmers that the land was given to the Perak football team and was also approved by the mentri besar,” he said.
On May 3, Ahmad Faizal awarded land to 39 Perak footballers and officials for winning the Malaysia Cup final last year against Terengganu.
Dr Jeyakumar said that the fruit and vegetable farmers are happy the mentri besar was willing to reward the Perak football team for the success, but worried of losing their land, which is the sole source of their livelihood.
“There are hundreds of hectares of land belong to government-linked companies. They should give these lands to the football team, not the ones occupied by the small farmers,” he said.
He also said that the farmers had previously applied for temporary occupation licenses (TOL), after receiving a similar notice nine years ago.
“No TOL or grants were given to them despite the farmers repeated application. They are willing to follow all the laws and procedures and pay all the taxes involved in using the land.
“They are not big-scale or commercial farmers; they are cultivating to make ends meet. The government should consider giving them a temporary grant or license,” he said, adding the farmers mostly cultivate eggplant, spinach, lime, Chinese mustard, okra and several other local fruits.
Dr Jeyakumar also urged the Land Office not to force the farmers to evacuate until the negotiation process has been finalised.
Earlier, Dr Jeyakumar, together with the affected farmers, handed over a letter seeking the mentri besar to intervene at the entrance of the State Secretariat Building, which was received by the latter’s office’s administration officer Shaza Mohd Shah.
Ahmad Faizal had repeatedly said that he will help small-scale farmers who are using government land under the special committee set up earlier this year to resolve the problem of squatters and the illegal occupation of government land.
*Editor's note: An earlier version contained an error and has since been amended. Malay Mail apologises for the error.