KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 2 — The Save Musang King Alliance (Samka) group representing durian farmers cultivating without permits in Pahang asked the state government today not to treat them like criminals by labeling them “illegal farmers”.
In a statement today, the group said the state government should not forget history and cited the “Green Book Programme” from the 1970s when Raub farmers had started their cultivation.
Malaysia’s second prime minister, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, launched the cited programme to develop sustainable farming in the country.
“The farmers were encouraged to cultivate unused land in order to be self-sufficient. However, many applications made by the farmers to farm legally were eventually rejected, leaving them stranded as they could only continue farming on their so-called 'illegal land'.
“The state government should not treat the farmers like criminals by misleadingly labelling them as ‘illegal farmers’,” Samka said.
The group also said it has no qualms in sharing the profits they made through cultivation with the state government.
“The farmers have been applying for titles or farming licenses for decades in the hope that they can pay taxes to the government. Unfortunately, the farmers’ good faith was to no avail as the government had always shut the door on the farmers, thus causing the “losses” as claimed by the state government now.
“Nevertheless, the farmers are still ready to work with the state government to solve the issue of unlicensed farms, with the precondition that it must completely halt the private corporation’s involvement in this issue,” they said.
The group then alleged that a private corporation’s involvement not only exploited the farmers but could also reduce the state government’s revenue, arguing that firms were motivated to maximise their profits.
“Once the private corporation manages to monopolise the entire durian market, both the farmers and the state government will be in a pathetically lose-lose situation,” Samka said.
The group said the farmers were also offering to compensate the state including paying for any land taxes that would have applied but were not collected previously.
Samka then lauded Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail for saying the farmers will not be evicted from the land following a court order for such enforcement to be halted pending the application for judicial review.
Yesterday Wan Rosdy said the state government has no intention of oppressing the farmers involved and that the initial action of wanting to vacate the farmers was merely enforcement that is allowed under the law.
However, he stressed that the Pahang government remained committed to acting against farmers cultivating illegally and encroaching on land in Raub.
He added that he hoped the farmers would cooperate with the state government to resolve the current impasse on Musang King durian farms in the state.
The land dispute in Raub made headlines this year after the state government sought to reclaim the land occupied by the farmers for large scale cultivation of Malaysia’s iconic Musang King durian variety.
The farmers cried foul, accusing the state authorities of unfair treatment in removing them from the lands they have been cultivating for decades now that the Musang King durian industry has become a money spinner.
However, Royal Pahang Durian Resources PKPP Sdn Bhd, the private company empowered by the Pahang government to engage with the farmers in a land legalisation scheme, insists it is offering a fair trade deal that will enable the planters to gain a decent profit.
The dispute then escalated into a legal battle between RPDR-PKPP and the farmers that have sought judicial review and won a court order halting eviction notices against them pending the hearing on their application on October 28.