“Stop harassment of land rights defenders,” human rights groups tell govt

HUMAN rights advocate groups ARTICLE 19 and CIVICUS have condemned the recent arrests of three land rights defenders and a farmer for trying to block a forced eviction by the Perak state government.

The arrests was in relation to a protest held at the Kanthan vegetable farm in Tambun, Perak on Tuesday (Oct 24) which saw dozens of officials from the Perak State Land and Minerals Office (PTG) being mobilised to forcibly evict the farmers with bulldozers and excavators.

According to news reports, when the farmers, supported by activists from Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) had tried to block them from entering the area, the police had arrested PSM chairman Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj, PSM committee member M. Karthiges, Perak PSM Youth member P. Kesavan, and a farmer identified as Ho Pon Tien.

The four were released last night around 8pm under police bail.

“The arbitrary arrests of the activists highlight the challenging environment for human rights defenders standing up for land rights and for local communities,” said CIVICUS Asia Pacific researcher Josef Benedict in a statement today (Oct 25).

“Their arrest was purely to intimidate and create a chilling effect for those seeking to halt the forced eviction. The government must drop any investigations into their actions.”

Another PSM activist, Chong Yee Shan, who has been working with the farmers to defend their land rights, was shoved by an officer from the PTG when she tried to stop the eviction. The incident was captured on video.

Chong had suffered injuries to her nose and mouth, as well as wounds on her legs and hands and has required medical treatment.

“Our organisations condemn the ill-treatment against human rights defender Chong Yee Shan. Such actions by government officials must not be tolerated,” said ARTICLE 19 Senior Malaysia Programme Officer Nalini Elumalai.

“The authorities must investigate the incident promptly and impartially and the perpetrator must be held to account.”

In a statement yesterday, PSM secretary-general A. Sivarajan said the PTG officers were attempting to evict the farmers, who have been occupying the land for decades, despite their pending application for the land and ongoing discussion over the matter.

“Why evict the productive farmers when they have applied for the land and waited patiently to comply with the state government for alternative land offer?” he questioned.

“It was the state government who failed to relocate them (farmers). Where is the state government’s commitment to food security?” – Oct 25, 2023


Main pic credit: Facebook/Parti Sosialis Malaysia

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