Raub’s ‛Duriangate’, Part 1
Updated 2 days ago · Published on 6 Sep 2020 7:40PM
AS a former MP of Raub (2013-2018) until I suffered a stroke, I wish to share some thoughts on the constituency’s “Duriangate” issue.
I want people to know immediately where I am coming from – RPDR and its associates, or whatever they wish to call themselves, are just a glorified protection racketeer.
The Pahang government in siding with RPDR is showing that it’s not thinking properly – it’s siding with the oppressors against the oppressed.
That decision does not endear the state government to the people. It will further fortify the people’s resolve to resist the government. Umno can kiss Raub a permanent goodbye.
As a rule, the government will always side with the rich and powerful. It’s always on the side of the bourgeoisie. It does not protect the people.
Tell me, sirs, how can you earn and profit from illegal enterprises? That’s like earning income from prostitution. That makes RPDR a pimp. The P stands for pimp.
RPDR is a legal entity, but earning an income from illegal resources. Will the government now farm out prostitution to a legal company?
If the government, by a stroke of the pen, can legalise farming out to RPDR, on the same account, it can confer legal rights on growers, right? What’s stopping it from giving legal ownership to planters?
It’s a question of you want to do it or you don’t. It’s purely a judgment call made in the office at Wisma Sri Pahang. That’s where the MB’s office is.
The Raub district officer is, sad to say, just an errand boy. Just another classy peon.
So tell me, how can you earn money from illegal sources, even though RPDR is legal? Might as well farm out the online gambling in Sempalit.
As a former Raub MP, I know a little bit of Raub’s durian industry. About 80%, or more, of the durian orchards are cultivated on unlicensed state land. In the 1960s and 1970s, the land was cultivated mostly by poor and destitute Chinese.
They would go to secluded jungle areas that were mostly inaccessible, except by bicycle and motorcycle, to plant, originally, papayas and bananas. You can still see these if you travel to Sg Ruan.
You can see why these areas were not cultivated then. Most of them were inaccessible, hilly and deep in the jungles.
The industrious Chinese cultivated and toiled these areas, planting bananas, papayas and later, durians.
They used fertilisers, weeded the land, and experimented with durian varieties. I was told that some old Chinese in Tras can bud-graft musang king trees with their eyes closed.
That’s experience you cannot buy off the rack. In other words, the people at RPDR have no experience whatsoever, but have ringgit signs in their eyes.
There are now slightly more than 2,000ha of durian land categorised as unlicensed. Imagine if you were to pay RM6,000 per 0.4ha per year – you would be getting RM30 million a year in “buta” money.
Five or six years ago, I convened a meeting between growers and the precursor to RPDR.
Needless to say, the meeting did not end well. The Chinese village chief, who arranged for the presence of reps from the company, was not even present. He is an MCA member. The meeting became an avenue for tirades against the company.
One planter, who cultivated about 24ha, told me that he would rather burn his trees rather than let the company profiteer.
Now, what are the onerous terms of the contract between RPDR and the planters,which makes RPDR-JV just a dignified rent-seeker?
A slave master, actually. There are so many terms that I, not a lawyer, find detestable.
Planters will find access to their own land difficult. This is because RPDR-JV is planning to build toll gates at entry points. Will the planters be asked to pay entry fees?
Doesn’t the responsibility of determining ingress and egress for an area belong to the Land Office? Makan tidur je ke?
Why is the Land Office surrendering this responsibility to RPDR? I find this strange.
The planters have to pay RM6,000 per 0.4ha per year to RPDR-JV. Not to the district office. By the way, the planters are already paying the Land Office for land use.
I am asking why should the planters pay RPDR? The income could be earned by the state government.
That’s at least RM30 million a year. With that amount, RPDR can brag about building the largest durian processing plant on a 10ha site in Teras, or Tulai, as the locals call it. It’s free money. By the way, were the 10ha bought or given by the state government?
Planters have to produce 2,000kg per acre per season. Is RPDR providing their golden s*** as manure? What methods are to be used to produce two tonnes per acre? Please enlighten us, RPDR.
On the 2,000kg, planters have to pay RM2 per kg. That’s RM4,000.
In Raub, there are more than 2,000ha of durian land, so 2,000ha x RM10,000 is another RM20 million in “buta” money to RPDR. Does the state government get RM20 million?
If the state government can get RM20 million, why should it allow RPDR to earn that amount?
Tell me if that is not rapacious behaviour on the part of RPDR?
RPDR says it has to collect the RM2 per kg because it’s paying the government RM10 per kg per acre. I find this preposterous. That means it’s paying RM100 million.
What kind of businessman worth his salt takes in RM20 million, but pays out RM100 million? Isn’t that preposterous?
So kind of RPDR. They probably pay RM500 per 0.4ha for agricultural land use. That works out to RM2.5 million. That’s more like it. Take in RM20 million, pay out RM2.5 million.
Once the planters sign the contract, they become slaves, virtually. They have to produce 2,000kg per 0.4ha. So, they have to toil. They can’t get out of the contract. They will be penalised for that.
They can only sell their durians to RPDR. I can embellish my story by saying they can’t even take home some for their families and friends. I hope RPDR is not that mean. Being the sole buyer, it becomes a monopsonist.
As a monopsonist, they cap the price of grade A musang king at RM30 per kg, whereas the market price can range from RM53 onwards. That’s in Malaysia. In China, they can sell at RM100 per kg.
As you know, musang king is graded as A, B and C. Grade C is not in the market. The company can further victimise planters. What’s stopping RPDR from grading, say, 1000kg per 0.4ha as B? And pay a lower price? The income loss to planters is sizeable. What does RPDR care?
RPDR argues that it’s protecting Raub growers and consumers from foreign growers. That’s balderdash. When I was MP, I hardly saw any foreigners, unless RPDR counts those coming from other states as foreigners! Then, the government ought to protect Raub people from RPDR!
It also argued that it will help get certification from MOA. That’s the function of MOA. It’s unreasonable to withhold the giving out of certificates to bona fide planters. It’s not the business of MOA to find out whether these planters grow durians on state or their own land.
On this, I won’t argue the economic impacts of RPDR’s intrusion into the market.
Rather, as a politician, I will argue about the political repercussions. That will be in Part 2. – September 6, 2020.
* Mohamad Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz is the former Raub MP.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.