KUCHING: Some villagers in Kampong Lebor Serian are crying foul over Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB)’s decision to suspend their smallholder farmers’ licence to sell oil palm fresh fruit bunches (FFB).
According to one of the land owners, Jengga Jeli, on July 26 this year, he received a showcause letter from MPOB demanding an explanation why his smallerholder farmers’ licence should not be suspended or revoked for allegedly stealing FFB from a joint-venture (JV) company, TH Pelita.
The villagers of Kampung Lebor had won their case at the Kuching High Court and, subsequently, at the Court of Appeal that the disputed NCR land belonged to Kampung Lebor villagers.
Jengga argued that the courts had decided that the land belonged to them, and there was no reason for MPOB to accuse them of stealing FFB from their own land.
He said he replied to MPOB accordingly on July 31 but was still called to meet MPOB at the Kuching Resident’s office to hear MPOB’s decision.
Jengga added that he had yet to get the outcome from MPOB, but following the suspension of his licence, other smallholders who used to sell FFB could not carry on their sales, too.
Shocked by MPOB’s alleged impartial and unprofessional act of double standards in sidelining the natives in developing their NCR land, Jengga told a press conference here yesterday that the villagers were contemplating taking legal action against MPOB and bringing the case to an international audience if a solution was not forthcoming.
“The government has always promoted oil palm as part of developing the rural areas and uplifting natives from poverty. However, when the natives have the means to develop their own land with oil palm, the government tries to restrict us from doing so.
“Big companies are given many incentives to develop oil palm on NCR lands, but we natives are sidelined. This reeks of double standards,” said Jengga.
Also present at the press conference was state PKR vice-chairman See Chee How, who is also Batu Lintang assemblyman.
See said he was shocked that MPOB had labelled the villagers intruders, and they appeared to exercise double standards.
He opined that MPOB, as a regulatory and statutory body of the palm oil industry, should be impartial, professional, and standardise in executing their duties.
See said revoking the licence of the smallholders meant denying the natives of their economic income from the sale of FFB.
See, who is also a lawyer, said in 2012, the High Court had ruled that the lands were NCR. The Court of Appeal later affirmed the High Court’s decision.
“The landowners won the case involving about 1,000 hectares of land. They have the right to harvest the about 300-hectare plantation following a consent order entered in court between the native land owners and PH Pelita.
“Therefore, the villagers’ activities on the land is legal and rightful and the FFB harvest belong to them. It is not theft as alleged by MPOB,” said See.
See added that MPOB was making it difficult for the land owners by not recognising their licence.
“They rather let the oil palm rot than let the land owners harvest and sell them.”