This is a lightly edited version of a memorandum sent to Perak Menteri Besar Saarani Mohamad by a coalition of farmers in Perak:
We are a group of small-scale vegetable farmers and fish rearers from several districts in Perak who are facing eviction from the land we have been cultivating since three to eight decades ago.
In some places, the land we have been cultivating was rehabilitated by us from former abandoned mining lands and now these plots have become an economic asset to the state of Perak.
In the 1970s, our second Prime Minister, Abdul Razak Hussein, encouraged the Malaysian public to contribute to the food security of Malaysia by cultivating empty land to ensure food supply. During the launching of the Green Book in December 1974, he stated that food production is more important than holding the title to the land.
Our forefathers followed Razak’s advice and invested labour and funds to cultivate the wasteland to feed themselves and to supply food to the community at large. Currently, the state of Perak is an important source for the supply of vegetables and freshwater fish for the population of Malaysia. The food produced by us is sent to other states as well to meet their food requirements.
Unfortunately, for the past 30 years, small farmers and livestock keepers situated on government land have been evicted by developers who want to implement development projects. The land we have been cultivating on is usually alienated to government-linked companies like Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Perak (Perak State Development Corporation) and MB Inc (Menteri Besar Incorporated).
Subsequently, the land is sold to private developers for housing or industrial projects. The small farmers are then required to vacate the land. We are seldom offered alternative land to continue vegetable farming and livestock rearing.
We were happy when the former Perak Menteri Besar, Ahmad Faizal Azumu, stated that henceforth the Perak state government policy would allow small farmers to continue producing food products.This is an enlightened policy that will bring a lot of benefits to the people of Perak including safeguarding food security, boosting the rural economy by creating opportunities for the sale of fertilisers and farming equipment, and marketing vegetables and fish to the local wet markets; in addition to ensuring a stable income to hundreds of small farmers.
We are not requesting land grants (titles) be given to small farmers who are cultivating government land. The interest of the Malaysian public is better protected if small farmers are offered land leases for 20 years, with the condition that the land be only used for food production and not be converted to oil palm plantation. A minimum 20-year lease period is essential to establish financial security for small farmers, thus enabling them to invest and increase their productivity.
Unfortunately, the sensible policy that was announced by Ahmad Faizal Azumu is not being followed by a number of government agencies, and the eviction of small vegetable farmers, fish and livestock keepers is still ongoing in several districts of Perak.
Therefore we would like to suggest that the policy announced by Ahmad Faizal be reflected in the Perak Land Rules, 1966 with the addition of the following words to Section 2 of the Rules: “each application for alienation or transfer of government land to a private party must be referred to Agricultural Land Board of State of Perak.”
A New Rule, no 47 should also be introduced in the Perak Land Rules, 1966 providing for the composition, duties and responsibilities of the Agricultural Land Board. We recommend the following:
i) The Agricultural Land Board must be composed of:
- the state secretary as the chairperson of the board
- the director of Land and Mines as the secretary of the board
- a member of the state assembly selected from the state government
- a member of the state assembly selected from the opposition
- two representatives selected from various societies of farmers in the state of Perak.
Members of the board from (C) to (E) may be rotated every two years.
ii) The Agricultural Land Board shall hold meeting every two months from the last day of the previous meeting, and each member of the board must be informed of the date and time of the meeting at least two weeks before the meeting is set to take place. The quorum for the meeting shall be at least three members of the board including the chairperson of the Board.
iii) The district land administrator before approving alienation of any government land to any parties must apply for consent from the Agricultural Land Board by providing the following information:
- The total number of farmers and livestock keepers who are engaged in the activity of cultivating crops or raising livestocks on the land
- The total number of farmers and livestock keepers who have engaged in he activity of cultivating crops or raising livestock on the land in the preceding twelve months before the date of application
- The total area that was used in crop cultivation and livestock raising by each farmer and the type and quantum of agricultural production by each farmer in the previous two years before the date of application
- The recommendation of the district land administrator in managing the issues faced by the crop and livestock farmers involved
If there are no any crop or livestock farmers on the land, the fact has to be informed to the Agricultural Land Board by the district land administrator when managing the land alienation.
iv) The Agricultural Land Board, if it deems fit, can call any concerned parties connected with any matters within the board’s purview to give statements and produce documents for the board’s examination
v) The Agricultural Land Board may approve the land administrator’s application by imposing further conditions in relation to the management of the issued faced by the farmers and livestock keepers using the land. The Agricultural Land Board may reject any application for the alienation or lease of government land on the grounds that:
- the board is satisfied any statements made in relation to the application is false or wrong, or
- the land administrator failed to comply with the condition imposed by the board with regard to management of the issues faced by farmers and livestock keepers using the land, or
- the board finds that the application does not serves the interest of public
vii) The Agricultural Land Board shall make decisions based on majority vote, and in the event of a tie, the chairperson shall have the deciding vote
viii) The Agricultural Land Board shall, in every second sitting of the state assembly in each year, present a report on the applications made for alienation of land received by the board the previous year, decisions made on each application for alienation of land by providing details of the number of farmers and livestock keepers affected and how the issues affected them were managed
We understand that the state government is empowered by Section 14(1)(a) of the National Land Code to make these amendments into Perak Land Rules, 1966. We believe the amendments we have requested are in line with the spirit of the National Land Code as the amendment is similar to the provisions found in Section 214A in relation to the Estate Land Board.
The establishment of these rules will ensure that small farmers cultivating government land in Perak are better protected and food supply to the Malaysian public is secured. Amending the Perak Land Rules as recommended would also fortify the local economy, further benefiting the people of Perak.
We hope the Menteri Besar could spare some time to meet a few of the representatives from our coalition to discuss the recommendations we have put forward.
Gabungan Petani Perak