Vengeful towkays likely responsible for peat fires

Vengeful towkays likely responsible for peat fires

15 August 2008

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Malaysia — The recent spate of peat fires in Kampung Johan Setia here is suspected to have been started by those affected by the Selangor government’s action against “towkays” responsible for illegal land clearing and farming in the area.

State executive councillor in charge of environment, Elizabeth Wong, said the government suspected the towkays started the fires in various parts of the mostly jungle area in retaliation against the action taken.

She said the state government had been working with the state Department of Environment, Rela, Fire and Rescue Department and the Klang Land Office to issue fines to those responsible for the fires earlier this year.

The action also involved a crackdown on illegals often hired by the towkays to farm the land. It is learnt about 100 illegals have been rounded up since last month.

Peat fires started to illegally clear land around Kampung Johan Setia have been a regular occurrence for a number of years and those involved often do not own the land or have any lease to it.

“Traces of kerosene used to start the fires have been found in some of the locations on fire now, and sandbags used to dam the drains in order to flood the peat areas have also been slashed,” Wong said yesterday.

“But I want to make it clear that our fight against illegal burning and farming will go on no matter what action these towkays take.”

She said the government planned to have deep trenches dug and also to put up barriers to stop access to the land.

Wong said the state also plans to have regular patrols of the affected area to identify and book those responsible.

“The Klang Land Office is now working on identifying the landowners and sending them notices on the illegal activities on their land,” she said.

“They will be given time respond but if they fail to meet us and work out ways to end the problem, we will use provisions under the National Land Code to confiscate the land.”

Meanwhile, according to the Meteorological Department’s weather forecast centre head assistant director Azemi Daud, 77 hotspots were detected in Sumatra and three in the peninsula as of 5pm yesterday.

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