Why was the land we are farming “gifted” to a private company from Kuala Lumpur?

Several farmers from Pusing, Perak convened in Ipoh on 30/3/2022 to hand over a Memorandum to the Menteri Besar of Perak, Yang Amat Berhormat Datuk Saarani Mohamad asking that he investigate the awarding of 103 acres of farm land to a businessman from Kuala Lumpur. This former mining land had been rehabilitated by a community of farmers over the past 40 years and is the site of several vegetable and oil palm plots as well as numerous aquaculture projects. Several attempts by the farmers to apply for Temporary Occupation Licences from the Land Office in the 1980s and 1990s were rejected.

In August 2017, 103 acres of land in this locality was alienated by the State Government to Tee Yam Holdings Sdn Bhd, a private company from Kuala Lumpur. Dato Tee Yam, a Kuala Lumpur resident and the majority shareholder of Tee Yam Holdings has never played any role in the rehabilitation or development of this former mining site.

In October 2019, Tee Yam Holdings built a fence around this land and blocked access of the farmers to their farm plots and fish ponds. The farmers tried negotiating a lease agreement with Tee Yam Holdings but were not successful. This was when they, with the help of PSM lawyers, filed an application under Section 99 of the Criminal Procedure Code to prevent further encroachment into their farms until the matter was heard in the High Court. This was when the farmers learnt from the papers filed by Tee Yam Holdings in Batu Gajah Magistrate Court that this 103 acre of land had been “gifted” to Tee Yam (“dikurniakan”) by the Perak State Government.

Further investigation revealed that the 103 acres under contention had been caveated by two individuals, Mr Lai and Mr Goh from Kuala Lumpur. The reason cited in the documents filed in the Batu Gajah Land Office was that these two individuals had, in December 2017, paid Tee Yam Holdings RM 2.5 million as the down payment (wang pendahuluan) for purchase of the entire 103 acres. Bear in mind that this land had only been ”gifted” to Tee Yam 4 months earlier.

In their memorandum to the Menteri Besar of Perak, the farmers who are now fighting eviction by Tee Yam Holdings ask – Why wasn’t this land sold or leased to us who expended so much energy and time to rehabilitate it and are now depending on it for our livelihood? Why was it gifted to Dato Tee Yam in 2017? What was Dato Tee Yam’s contribution to the State of Perak for him to deserve such a generous “gift”? A down payment of RM 2.5 million suggests that the market value of the land is probably about RM 25 million.

The farmers go on to note that although according to the National Land Code, the State Authority has control over all land matters in each State, surely this power must be used in a manner that is fair to all concerned. They end their memorandum appealing to the Menteri Besar to set up an independent commission to ascertain whether there had been any misuse of power in the gifting of this land to Tee Yam. If so, they request the Menteri Besar to use the Land Acquisition Act to re-acquire the 103 acres and lease it out to the farmers who have been tilling it.

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