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Noisy street protest by padi farmers

Sat 2011-Nov-26 @ +08 14:18:00 pm

So-called progressive Malaysia’s no-balls federal government and no-balls police force wants you to give 30 days’ notice, and no street protests. Burma, under a brutal, repressive military regime: five days’ notice, street protests allowed.

In Sekinchan earlier this week

Photo: Selangor Times

Street protests aren’t the monopoly of greater KL city dwellers and friends who turn out in their tens of thousands, occupying busy thoroughfares in defiance of an increasingly repressive quasi police state intent on maintaining its quasi totalitarian methods.

Far away from the noisy tourist-filled shopping streets of Jalan Bukit Bintang, Jalan Hang Tuah, and Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, ordinary people also need to bring public attention to their problems.

Repression does not come from government and police along. Employers, too, can be repressive and workers must also occasionally take to the streets to draw public support and bring attention.

And so, too, people in smaller towns far away from the chattering classes of Bangsar and Damansara.

Here’s what happened in Sekinchan, in Selangor’s rice bowl, on Tuesday:

Rice farmers protest raw deal

Alvin Yap
Selangor Times

SEKINCHAN: Some 200 paddy farmers from across Sabak Bernam staged a well-behaved albeit noisy protest here against low rice prices and subsidies set by Putrajaya.

The elderly farmers from Sekinchan, Sungai Burong and Sungai Besar gathered at Parit 5 Sekinchan on Tuesday morning to urge the federal government to look seriously into their welfare and protect their fundamental rights.

Their two main demands are the implementation of fair trade for rice, and an increase in subsidies from the current RM24.81 to RM50 per 100kg, in order to protect their livelihoods.

Currently Padiberas Nasional Berhad (Bernas) pays farmers RM1,300 per 1,000kg of rice, while seedlings for replanting are sold at RM1,400 per 1,000kg.

The farmers are appealing for these rates to revise to RM1,400 and RM1,600 respectively, and pointed out that even Thailand has recently increased the amount paid to rice farmers there.

They also urged the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry to abolish the RM100 per 1,000kg transport fee (from acquisition centre to other states), which are charged to farmers instead of the centre.

They said operating costs are getting higher day by day, and farmers have seen their profits slashed.
Sekinchan assemblyperson Ng Suee Lin and Sabak Bernam district councillors were also present at the protest.

Ng Suee Lin said the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry cannot continue to ignore the basic right of farmers.

He claimed that the current rates paid to farmers have not been revised for two decades.

“Presently, rice production is monopolised by Bernas… it is unreasonable as Sekinchan produces high-quality paddy and seedlings,” he said.

Ng also pointed out there were others who are willing to buy the rice and seedlings at higher prices, yet the government prohibits this.

While acknowledging that there were some subsidies and incentives provided by the government, Ng claimed that farmers are not benefiting from them.

“Farmers tell me they get fertiliser of poor quality, while some say they don’t get any harvesting incentives from the government,” said Ng.

In addition, he expressed support for the farmers’ call for the transportation fees to be abolished.

Ng further called on Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Noh Omar to explain what happened to RM110 million worth of incentives promised to rice farmers.

Putrajaya had allocated the RM110 million in 2010 for farmers to help increase their rice production, but the recent Auditor-General’s report revealed that the allocation was not distributed.


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