AN OPEN LETTER BY PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION LEADER, DAP SECRETARY-GENERAL AND MP FOR PETALNG, LIM KIT SIANG, TO JOHORE MENTRI BESAR, TAN SRI OSMAN SAAT ON FRIDAY, 4TH SEPTEMBER 1981.
Tan Sri Othman Saat,
Dear Tan Sri,
DAP calls on Johore State Government to stop dragging its feet and speedily effect a just and equitable settlement of the Kuala Kabong squatter problem affecting the livelihood of some 1,5000 squatter families.
Together with the DAP State Assemblyman fro Kluang, Sdr. Lee Kaw, I met you at your office in Johore Bahru on 27th July, 1981, to discuss with you the outstanding grievances of the 1,500 squatter families whose investment of meagre capital, their labour, sweat and toil for some 20 years since 1959 on the some 20,000 acres in Kuala Kabong, Johore, cultivating cash crops like rubber, oil palm, vegetables and others, were destroyed with one administrative order when on March 16, 1981, the land was seized by the State Government on the ground that they were illegal cultivation.
You assured us your personal attention into the matter and your own concern for the welfare of those who have invested their meagre capital, their entire labour, sweat and toil in their cultivation in Kuala Kabong, and that the Government would live up to its socio-economic responsibility of looking after their interest.
You indicated that a permanent solution could be expected in a matter of days, because of the pressing economic and social hardships which the March 16 seizure action of the government had created to the Kuala Kabong squatters.
Sdr. Lee Kaw and I had waited day after day, week after week, for a effective, equitable solution to the problems of the Kuala Kabong squatters, but some six weeks have passed, and there is still no solution to the problem by the government.
I am writing to you this open letter to express our grave disappointment at your failing to live up to your assurance and commitment, and to urge you and the Johore State Government to stop dragging its feet on a grave socio-economic problem which every day aggravates the socio-economic hardships of the squatter farmers involved.
This is also completely out of tune with the style of government set by the new Mahathir-Musa leadership, which expects prompt solution particularly of problems which affect large numbers of the Malaysian people as in Kuala Kabong.
Although strictly from the legal point of view, the 1,5000 Kuala Kabong squatter farmers have no legal title to land, the Johore State Government has a moral, social and political obligation to legalise their cultivation because:
1. The Johore State Government, through the Kual Kulai Land Office, had received applications for the Kuala Kabong land from the squatter-farmers or predecessors way back to 1959, and supported by land office documents;
2. The Johore State Government, through the Kulai Land Office gave tacit consent and encouragement to the Kuala Kabong farmers to invest their meagre capital and their entire labour, sweat and toil by planting rubber, oil palm, vegetables and other crops, without at any time warning of their illegal cultivation when the Land Office officials were fully aware of their cultivation right from the beginning; in fact, in the Land Office, the Kuala Kabong land plan was divided into lots of 10 or 12 acres conforming with the lot-division in the Kuala Kabong area confirming Land Office tacit approval of the cultivation;
3. In 1976 and 1977, the Kuala Kabong farmers were called up by the Kulai Land Office for interviews, and a survey was taken about their particular crops, and the Kuala Kabong farmers were given to understand that the interviews and surveys were part of the process towards the issue of proper titles to them.
The out of the blue on March 16, 1981, without a single warning ever having been issued, the Johore State Government seized the 20,000 acres of Kuala Kabong with the development of major military and police forces.
I urge you to pay regard, as you say you would, to the socio-economic and humanitarian demands of the Kuala Kabong squatter-farmers, and without anymore delay.
• Stop the State Economic Development Corporation from harvesting the rubber and oil palm smallholdings there through contract workers;
• Permit the Kuala Kabong squatter farmers to work their smallholdings and collect the fruits of their labour of the past 20 years;
• Subdivide the land and allocation to the Kuala Kabong squatter farmers who have earned the land, not only from their 20 years of labour and investment, but even more important, from the State Government’s tacit consent to such cultivation through its agent, the Kulai Land Office.
You must have your problems why despite your assurances on July 27, that the Kuala Kabong problems would be resolved in a matter of ‘days’ they are still outstanding. Whatever these problems may be, it is some 6 months since the original seizure of the Kuala Kabong land by the Johore State Government on March 16, and the demand that there should be no more delay of even a single day for a just, equitable and long-term solution to the livelihood of the Kuala Kabong squatter farmers.
I urge you therefore to resolve this outstanding problem without any more delay, in a manner which satisfies the Johore State Government’s social, governmental and moral obligation to the farmers. As the Johore State Assembly meets tomorrow, it is also my hope that a solution to the Kuala Kabong problem could be announced at the Assembly, if necessary, in the form of a special Ministerial statement.