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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Felda kin may swing to Pakatan if Hulu Selangor pledges not fulfilled

By Neville Spykerman and Clara Chooi
BATANG KALI, April 27 — Heirs of Felda settlers in Sungai Buaya have warned they may vote for Pakatan Rakyat (PR) should the ruling federal government fail to honour Hulu Selangor campaign promises by the next general elections.

A view of a palm oil plantation in Hulu Selangor. - Picture by Choo Choy May
A group of second-generation Felda settlers said they voted Barisan Nasional (BN) during Sunday’s Hulu Selangor by-election because of the RM50,000 advance payment for their land that was acquired off them for development and the promise by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to look into their plight.
“We may reconsider how we vote in the next general election if BN don’t keep their promises,” said a 53-year-old self-employed-man, whose father was an original settler who died without seeing a sen.
The settlers are the pioneer batch who settled in the rural enclave in the Felda land scheme started by Najib’s father Tun Abdul Razak Hussein.
Felda, or the Federal Land Development Authority, is the world’s largest plantation operator, with 811,140 hectares of oil palms, mainly across Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak and Sabah in Malaysia. It also operates plantations and oil mills in Indonesia.
Last Friday 100 settlers in Sungai Buaya here received an RM1,000 advance of the promised RM50,000 each from private company Idiqa Holding Sdn Bhd.
However Najib reportedly said the remaining compensation would be paid to the settlers at a rate of RM160,000 per acre when the land is developed.
“The only condition is that Selangor is returned to Barisan to facilitate implementation of the development projects,” he said during the ceremony at Sungai Buaya here.
Howeber, Idiqa Holding’s chairman Datuk Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim, told the remaining 263 settlers or their kin who collected their money yesterday that that they would get all their money within the next six five months.
A total of 363 settlers or their next of kin have been waiting 17 years for compensation after their land totalling 510ha (1,261 acres) was acquired by a housing developer, whose project failed to take off.
The kin of settlers, whose fathers were rubber small holders, pointed out that on average each was owed between RM500,000 and RM1 million, and expected to see progress payments for the arrears and not empty promises.
“We have waited this long but there is a limit to our patience,” said the kin, who declined to be named.
Another second generation settler said he would have boycotted the by-election had it not been for Najib’s promises.
“We are all hardcore BN supporters but we been frustrated for so long,” said the Umno man, adding he would never vote for PR but would not cast a vote in next election if the problem continues to be unresolved.
The same discontentment was heard among the crowd yesterday when the remaining 263 settlers and their kin collected their payments of RM50,000
While waiting for the newly-minted MP P. Kamalanathan and his entourage to arrive, a few settlers told The Malaysian Insider that the BN’s campaign promises were “too little too late”.
“Why should we be happy anyway? This is money we are owed for more than 15 years. Why do they compensate us only now? Even then, this is just RM50,000 they are giving us. What about the rest? My family is owed at least RM400,000,” said one angry Malay settler who refused to be named.
He even complained about the method of distributing the funds and said there was little need for all the pomp and pageantry typical of a BN function.
“And they make us wait for them in this heat, no food, no drink. Who do they think they are, I feel like we are begging for charity but it’s our money actually,” he added.


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