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Anger over alien invasion

A noticeable difference of late is the growing presence of foreigners. -NST

Fri, Jun 17, 2011
New Straits Times

BUYING vegetables from the popular roadside stalls in Kundasang has long been a must for travellers between the east and west coast of Sabah and for visitors to the nearby Mount Kinabalu National Park.

A noticeable difference of late, however, is the growing presence of foreigners. This has triggered complaints from local hawkers and farmers about the transients eating into their livelihood.

They materialise in the wee hours of the morning and by the time the sun rises they are gone, illegally trading vegetables in Kundasang, according to irate local farmers and hawkers.

The meeting point would be along the row of stalls along the main road that connects the east and west coast districts. They gather there from as early as 2am and would be gone by 6am, leaving a trail of rotten vegetables for the locals to clean up.

Kundasang Stall Operators Association chairman Mariana Taliban says the foreigners were depriving the locals of their livelihood.

"These foreigners come on the pretext of working for locals. Then they rent land, plant within their living quarters or in prohibited areas. Next thing you know, they are selling the vegetables.

"There are also locals working for foreigners, loading and unloading vegetables into lorries and pick-up trucks that line the roadside.

"How can locals compete with them? They don't pay taxes, rents or permits, they trade among themselves and at much lower prices," says Mariana, who had led the association of 300 members, mostly vegetable hawkers, the past four years.

There are locals who bear the blame as they rent stalls or even become partners with the foreigners, she says, adding that the association has taken steps to discourage them.

"As of June 1, we have posted a notice at the stalls warning locals against allowing foreigners to operate their stalls unless they are workers with valid permits.

'Those who fail to adhere to this could lose their 'privilege' of trading at the stalls. There are others who could use the space to earn an honest living," Mariana says.

Another stall operator, who identifies herself only as Janisah, says the foreigners would leave a trail of rubbish for them to clean up every morning.

"I rent this stall from a villager for RM300 per month. I clean up every time I close shop and do another round when I open up in the morning. Is this fair?"

Kundasang Development and Security Committee chairman Mien Bangaloi says vegetables produced by foreigners could tarnish the image of legitimate farmers who plant according to strict guidelines provided by the agricultural authorities.

"Local farmers undergo courses by government agencies to ensure the vegetables planted are of good quality and safe for consumption," says the community leader who heads 18 villages within the Kundasang area.

"There have been times when vegetables from Kundasang had tarnished its reputation because of excessive use of pesticides. That was definitely not us," says Mien who also plants vegetables for a living.

"Buyers from other places, from as far as Sarawak or Brunei, would have no way of knowing where their supply comes from. That is worrying."

Indonesian Yohanes Rantiuman, 45, who arrived here eight years ago to work for a local company planting highland vegetables, says he could not imagine earning a living illegally.

"It is wrong. I don't want to risk being caught by the authorities because I have three children back home. With the money I earn here, I am able to put them in good schools and, hopefully, they will do better than me in the future."

Yohanes said he knew of others who were in the area illegally and said they do not lead "comfortable" lives for fear of being caught by the authorities.


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