A Shattered Dream

Chapter 2

Bad Encounters With Fruit Farmers

                                                                                                                                                                  Page 2

 With Farmer Hong

Farmer Hong, in his forties, is a nephew of my plantation supervisor. He lives in Batu 23 village, which is not far from the plantation. He was a small time fruit farmer planting papayas and bananas under licence in other people’s plantations near his village. He engaged three or four undocumented Indonesia workers to work in my plantation.

He started work the same time as Farmer Goh, first in clearing and then ploughing the areas where he was allocated. He installed two water pumps, one abstracting water from the small boundary stream and the other from a pond in the lowland nearby and laid some pipes to irrigate the planting areas.

A bigger area was devoted to the planting of papayas and the balance bananas. The papaya seedlings were germinated from seeds in the plantation while banana seedlings were brought in from elsewhere. Two types of papayas were planted; one was the KL variety and the other the Hong Kong variety. The fruits of the former could grow to more than 3kg while those of the latter to not more than 1kg. The fruits of the Hong Kong variety taste much sweeter than those of the KL variety. Bananas were planted in a smaller area and in between oil palm trees. Two varieties were planted - Pisang Mas and Pisang Tali.

Under the Licence Agreement, only two rows of fruit plants are allowed to grow between two rows of oil-palm trees. As the distance between two rows of palm trees is about 25ft, it is to be expected that the fruit plants would be grown not closer than 8ft from the palm trees.


Too many & Too close

But no, though only two rows of papaya trees were planted, many were closer to the oil palm trees than expected. And three rows of the fruit trees were planted in the area reserved for bananas! When Farmer Hong was told about this, his reply was that the fruit trees were planted by his workers and that all other farmers were doing the same! I warned him that without any notice to him, I would chop down any fruit trees, which I found to be obstructing the growth of the oil-palm trees.

I did not proceed with what I threatened to do, hoping that the farmer would repent and do what was necessary. But no, he still insisted that he did no wrong.

Whenever I was in the plantation, I would then go around with a can of red Aerosol paint and spray the fruit plants that were planted too close to the palm trees. After this was done I asked my lawyers to serve Farmer Hong a notice to remove all the fruit trees which I had sprayed with red paint. In spite of all these, Farmer Hong refused to barge and told me that he was not making money from what he was doing in my plantation! He sounded as if I owed him a living!

From then onwards, I would go round the plantation with a kukeri and chop down, without any qualms, the fruit plants that I had painted.

I did all these not because I had no feeling for the poor farmer. After all, I was one in my teens and my family had never once taken advantage of anybody in those days. We were poor but we were not mean and did not blame anybody for our poverty!

I did all these because I owed the defiant farmer nothing, nothing at all. I was also disgusted to see that during good seasons, a lot of papayas were left to rod, up on top of the trees, on the ground and in the drains. Why then plant so many trees if the market for the produce was so limited? I absolutely felt no guilt at all in cutting down some of the plants!


Left for the birds and to rot

On expiry of the Licence Agreement, Farmer Hong requested an extension of two months to enable him to complete harvesting the fruits. The extension was granted but I told him to remove all those plants that were not productive. He did not bother, not even after the expiry of the extension. When confronted, he nonchalantly told me that he was short of laborers. But what surprised me was I saw two of his laborers around harvesting the papayas!

Three months after the expiry of the extension, though the shacks had been demolished, bits and pieces of timbers, roof sheets, plastics and other unwanted materials were left littered all over the places. Most of the fruit trees were felled but their stumps were left and soon new sprouts appeared.


                                                             Rubbish left behind & new sprouts

I issued another Lawyers’ letter to him, giving him an ultimatum to clear the remnants and remove all fruit-tree stumps and if he still refused to comply I would engage a contractor to do at his cost and transport the refuse to his house. I also pointedly told him that he was utterly ungrateful and irresponsible.

In spite of these reminders and lawyers’ letters, Farmer Hong still doggedly refused to act. It was solely my choice whether to take action or let it fade away into oblivion. I decided the latter because I wanted to move on and felt that nothing I was going to do could change the mindset of the farmer, who I strongly believed that he would forever remain poor all his life.


End of Chapter 2                                                                                                                                                           go to page 1

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