KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 25 — A DAP state assemblyman today accused the Pahang state government and two Barisan Nasional (BN) lawmakers of misleading the public on the recent enforcement activity in Sungai Ichat against farmers that have been allegedly operating lands in the area illegally.
In a statement today, Tanah Rata state assemblyman Chiong Yoke Kong said that the BN-led Pahang administration has been purportedly issuing statements which are not reflective of what actually transpired on the ground.
He also trained his gun on BN MP Ramli Mohd Noor and the party’s Slim River state assemblyman Datuk Mohd Khusairi Abd Talib, both of whom were accused of defaming the affected farmers by labelling them “illegal encroachers”.
“Such an action clearly reflected their rashness, recklessness and irresponsibility.
“It proved that Ramli and Khusairi have rather limited knowledge and understanding about farmers in the constituency but blindly referred to the state government’s statements to defame the farmers in order to evade all responsibility.
“The state government initially claimed that the Temporary Occupation Licenses (TOLs) of farmers in the area had expired in 2009 while eviction notice was also issued, hence, enough time for the farmers to leave the area. However, after further investigation was conducted, we realised that many relevant farmers were allowed to renew their TOLs until 2017,” Chiong said.
He added that the state government had later claimed that the earliest TOL was issued in 1993, purportedly in a bid to refute the affected farmers’ claim that they had been farming in the area for almost 50 years.
“Nevertheless, we once again found out that in 1969-1971 or about 50 years ago, many farmers had received TOLs,” he said, adding that Sungai Ichat farmers have obtained TOLs for years, warning the Pahang state government to not mislead the public and defame the farmers “based on lies”.
Chiong said that the farms at Sungai Ichat have existed for 50 years.
On concerns over possible river pollution issues in Sungai Ichat, Chiong said that currently, it is Sungai Terla that provides 70 per cent of Cameron Highlands water supply, lamenting that despite this, the state government only plans for Sungai Ichat to be the main water source.
He claimed that there is also an illegal settlement and several farms polluting the upstream of Sungai Terla.
“When the state government did not deal with the more polluted Sungai Terla but took action against the farmers at Sungai Ichat, such an action that resembles ‘selective enforcement’ can hardly convince the relevant farmers as well as farmers in Cameron Highlands.
“This enforcement action involves 60 farming families whereby most of which have been farming for 40 to 50 years. Therefore, apart from the environmental aspect, it is also a social and economic problem.
“Although the state government is responsible for ensuring the safety of water catchment area, it should also deal with the problem in a humane way by considering the livelihood of hundreds of farmers and giving them a way out,” Chiong added.
On Monday, Malaysiakini reported that 12 MIC representatives, including a special officer on Indian affairs to the Pahang mentri besar, Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail, had abruptly resigned after being dissatisfied with the manner in which the Sungai Ichat land issue was managed.
11 of the MIC members were local councillors.
Malaysiakini reported that the MIC members were dissatisfied with the state government for not providing alternative lands to farmers near Sungai Ichat, despite operating in the area for 40 years.
In September, state news agency Bernama reported the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah expressing concern over the state of the environment in illegally encroached sites near Sungai Ichat in Kuala Terla..
In his maiden visit, the Pahang Sultan had reportedly called upon all parties to immediately halt illegal encroachment activities into the Kuala Terla water catchment area, especially near the intake point of the Sungai Ichat dam in the Ulu Ternom sub-district.
Sultan Abdullah reportedly said that the land encroachment had caused pollution to Sungai Ichat, one of the two water sources for the Kuala Terla Water Treatment Plant, apart from Sungai Terla, which had not only affected the environment but could also affect public health.