Durian, royalty and politics: Race to placate farmers in revolt
30 Aug 2020, 9:37 pm
A durian farmers’ dispute in Raub, Pahang has turned political with parties from both sides of the divide racing to lend a helping hand, but a royal twist also means they must tread carefully.
The backdrop of these developments is the speculation that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin may call for a snap election in the near future in an attempt to bolster his fragile majority.
The dispute started when the Pahang government’s Perbadanan Kemajuan Pertanian Negeri Pahang (PKPP) and royalty-linked Royal Pahang Durian Resources (RPDR) entered into a joint-venture and is now reclaiming thousands of acres of land from what it claimed are illegal durian farmers.
Some are indeed illegal farmers, but other unlicensed ones are part of a farming scheme launched by PKPP’s predecessor Lembaga Kemajuan Perusahaan Pertanian (LKPP) in the 1970s but were later somehow forgotten.
The durian farmers’ have claimed that they are now being forced into an exploitative “legalisation scheme” by PKPP-RPDR.
Swinging into action, the Pahang MCA yesterday formed a committee aimed at “safeguarding the rights” of farmers.
The committee was announced by Pahang MCA liaison committee chairperson Hoh Khai Mun but was careful not to single out the durian farms, instead of aiming to solve agriculture issues in general for Pahang.
He had the central endorsement with the presence of MCA secretary-general Chong Sin Woon…
Not to be outdone, Pahang DAP, backed by central leaders, also visited the durian farmers today where they announced a national committee headed by Pahang DAP deputy chairperson Tengku Zulpuri Shah Raja Puji to look into their plight.
“The committee will investigate the background of the issue and also how the company was able to use the word ‘royal’,” said DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang.
Lim said by using the name “royal”, it was giving the perception that the durian farmers fighting the company were going against the royalty.
“It gives a false perception that the people are against the royalty. They are not against the royalty, but it is for justice,” he said.
Lim also urged Muhyiddin to visit the site and understand the issue, lamenting that no federal ministers have taken up their plight.
The issue has become a hot topic in the Chinese press while right-wing Malay rights groups such as Isma have also questioned why MCA was getting involved, declaring that the matter to be a “clear” case of illegal encroachment.
However, a survey of the area by Malaysiakini found that while many Chinese farmers have been the most vocal in their protest, many Malay farmers are also affected by the “legalisation scheme”.
Among them is 80-year-old Mohamad Ali, who is the former chief of one of the affected villages.
Mohamad has settled in Kampung Sungai Chalit since 1979 under LKPP’s scheme, but their land ownership was never properly formalised until today.