by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Wednesday, January 18, 1995:
DAP calls for the immediate release of 33 Kerpan farmers, immediate halt of all work by the developer and a dialogue between the Prime Minister and the Kerpan farmers to seek an amicable settlement
The DAP deplores the arrest of 33 Kerpan farmers, including 10 women, two days ago and the extension of their demand order in police lock-ups while the developer of the controversial tiger prawn project, Samak Aquaculture Sdn. Bhd., are given police protection to destroy the padi fields of the farmers to construct ponds for tiger prawns.
DAP calls for the immediate release of 33 Kerpan farmers and an immediate halt of all work by the developer to allow an amicable settlement to the long-running dispute over the land acquisition of Kerpan padi lands for the tiger-prawn project.
As the Kerpan farmers who oppose the tiger-prawn project are still seeking legal redress over the land acquisition, it is most improper and unjust that the police should get involved in the controversy to the extent of arresting the 33 Kerpan farmers and providing protection to the developer to destroy the padi lands.
The accusation by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, that the Kerpan farmers were instigated by ‘certain people, including the Opposition’, to oppose the land acquisition and the tiger-prawn project is most unwarranted.
It is time that the Government, both Federal and State, should respect and understand the strong attachment of the people to their ancestral land and their right to demand that they do not become victims of land acquisition abuses and injustices instead of looking for scapegoats from the Opposition to pin the blame for the people’s rejection of unfair land acquisitions.
Both the Federal and State Governments should not try to find an easy way out from land acquisition controversies by blaming the affected landowners for being ‘anti-development’. The affected landowners are not against development as what they are fighting for is to ensure that they do not become ‘victims of development’.
I suggest that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed should arrange to have a dialogue with the Kerpan farmers to understand their objections and grievances, as the Kedah Menteri Besar Tan Sri Osman Aroff has not only failed to resolve the tiger-prawn land acquisition dispute, but has lost his neutral position and become the spokesman for the tiger-prawn project against Kerpan farmers.
Ten days ago, the National Conference Against Land Acquisition Abuses and Injustices in Kuala Lumpur attended by over 1,000 landowners from all over the country called for a new land acquisition law, policy and approach to strike a fairer balance between development needs and the property rights of Malaysians and proposed Nine Principles for such a new land acquisition law, policy and approach.
The Kedah State Government’s handling of the Kerpan tiger-prawn land acquisition controversy is a clear violation of many of the Nine Principles for a fair and just land acquisition law, policy and approach, as for instance, in not giving the affected landowners in Kerpan the fullest consultation and dialogue over the tiger-prawn project and the use of government agencies, including the police, to side with the developer.
For instance, one of the Nine Principles which stressed that “State Governments should not just be agents of private companies in land acquisition cases but must bear a responsibility to ensure that affected smallholders whose land are acquired for development by private companies get justice and fair play” has clearly been violated in the Kerpan tiger-prawn land acquisition dispute.