However, Bukit Pelanduk is a ghost of its former self, with its flourishing pig industry totally destroyed in the Nipah virus epidemic, caused by inexcusable Ministerial and government negligence and incompetence resulting in the loss of 105 lives, the culling of over a million pigs and the destruction of the important pig-rearing industry.
I have come back to revisit Bukit Pelanduk together with the DAP MP for Cheras, Tan Kok Wai, DAP National Treasurer, Fung Kui Lun and DAP National Organising Secretary, Kerk Kim Hock because Parliament is reconvening on Oct. 18, and I want to see for myself the plight of the people of Bukit Pelanduk in the aftermath of the Nipah virus catastrophe so that I could speak up for them in Parliament.
I am shocked that the Deputy Finance Minister, Datuk Wong See Wah had said that the government had agreed to increase the RM50 ringgit compensation for every pig destroyed during the Nipah virus catastrophe to RM120, on the condition that the Barisan Nasional regains its parliamentary two-thirds majority in the next election.
This is a most shameless politics of blackmail, using the pig farmers’ rightful dues to fair compensation for pigs destroyed as an extortion for votes for the Barisan Nasional.
I call on the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi, who is also chairman of the Cabinet JE Committee (it should have been correctedly named Cabinet Nipah virus committee), to clarify whether it is true that the government has agreed to raise the RM50 ringgit compensation to RM120 for every pig destroyed during the Nipah virus epidemic provided Barisan Nasional regains two-thirds parliamentary majority in the next election.
I have received reports that the pig farmers in other states, as in Penang and Malacca, have been informed by veterinary officers about the RM70 increase to the original RM50 compensation for every pig culled during the Nipah virus catastrophe, but they did not attach the condition that the Barisan Nasional should recapture two-thirds parliamentary majority in the next election.
Pig farmers in these states, however, have been told that the increase of compensation for culling of pigs from RM50 to RM120 is only for pig farmers who do not have more than 2,000 pigs culled, as the compensation for those who have more than 2,000 pigs would remain at RM50.
This is most unfair, and I call on the Cabinet JE Committee to do justice to the pig farmers by ensuring that the RM120 compensation for every pig culled should apply to every one, regardless of whether Barisan Nasional regains its two-thirds Parliament majority or whether farms have more or less than 2,000 heads of pigs.
I am very surprised that the pig farmers in Bukit Pelanduk, unlike pig farmers in Tanah Merah Site A and Site C, have not received their RM50 ringgit pig culling compensation - affecting some 350 households. The reason given is that the Veterinary Department is seeking to slash down the total number of pigs reported to be culled during the epidemic, alleging that there was an over-reporting of pigs culled in the area.
This is most unfair and I call on the Cabinet JE Committee not to arbitrarily slash the figures of the pigs culled in Bukit Pelanduk and to ensure that the initial payment of RM50 per pig culled is immediately made out to all without any further delay. Furthermore, that the RM70 increase for every pig culled should also be immediately paid out to all the affected pig farmers.
DAP maintains that the fair and proper compensation for pig culling should be RM250 per head and wants the Cabinet JE Committee to reconsider the whole quantum of compensation for the over a million pigs culled during the Nipah virus epidemic, taking into consideration that the epidemic became so disastrous and fatal precisely because of misdiagnosis, mishandling and mistreatment by the authorities concerned.
In this connection, the authorities should give a full accounting of the special lottery draws held purportedly to fund the pig culling compensations. I understand that apart from two special lottery draws for this purpose, another five to seven special lottery draws had been conducted to exploit the situation.
There should be a full public disclosure and accounting of the incomes and proceeds of all these special lottery draws, and every sen should be used to compensate the victims of the Nipah virus catastrophe, whether in the form of RM250 for every pig culled, or for the avoidable and unnecessary 105 deaths and the hardships suffered by those who had to evacuate their homes or lost their livelihoods.
Ever since the establishment of the Cabinet JE Committee, Abdullah Badawi had never visited Bukit Pelanduk. I call on him to visit Bukit Pelanduk with his Ministerial colleagues in the Cabinet JE Committee to see for themselves the sorry plight of the people in the area and to announce crash programmes to put them on their feet again.
I am seeking a meeting with Abdullah Badawi to discuss with him the problems and hardships of the victims of the Nipah virus epidemic. I will also highlight the plight of the pig farmers and their families in the aftermath of the Nipah virus epidemic and the failure of the government to provide them with all necessary help and support to recover from the epidemic.