PART TWO: OPERATION GADING
Stern-faced soldiers wielding M-16 rifles stood guard as bright yellow excavators mowed down rows of chrysanthemums, leaving behind broken stalks.
Farmers stood at a distance, watching years of hard work being laid to waste.
There was nothing they could do— the destruction was in fact ordered by the government, so as to prevent future floods in Bertam Valley.
All illegal farms encroaching the river, existing forest reserves, and water catchment areas had to go.
Escalating floods in the highlands were the culmination of centuries of environmental, political and racial tensions, according to Ramakrishnan Ramasamy, president of the non-governmental organisation, Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands. (R.E.A.C.H.)
Roots of the problem hail back to 1885 when William Cameron, a British government surveyor, discovered the plateau at an elevation of 4,500 – 5,600ft above sea level.