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Where’s the money, Felda settlers ask Malaysia government

KUALA LUMPUR — Two months after being told of a windfall from the government, Felda settlers are sceptical that they will see any of the incentives Prime Minister Najib Razak had promised them.

Felda settlers are sceptical that they will see any of the RM5,000 that Malaysian PM Najib Razak had promised them. Reuters file photo

Felda settlers are sceptical that they will see any of the RM5,000 that Malaysian PM Najib Razak had promised them. Reuters file photo

KUALA LUMPUR — Two months after being told of a windfall from the government, Felda settlers are sceptical that they will see any of the incentives Prime Minister Najib Razak had promised them.

This cynicism, most of which comes from second-generation settlers, will impact the government’s ability to woo this crucial voting bloc, which has traditionally sided with the Barisan Nasional ruling coalition.

Felda settlements in the nationwide land-development scheme are spread out in 54 parliamentary seats.

In late July, as part of Felda Day celebrations, Mr Najib pledged that each of the 94,956 settler families will get a RM5,000 (S$1,604) bonus to be paid out by the end of August.

“But we are nearing the end of September and have not seen a sen of that money,” said Mr Mohamad Tarmizi, of Felda Jengka 10, in Jengka, Pahang.

“The mock cheques have been delivered to our settlements. But we have yet to see the money,” said the 39-year-old.

Another second-generation settler, Andak Ahmad said he and his friends are used to being disappointed by the government.

“We will just wait and see. We are not hoping for anything because we have had bad experiences with these types of promises,” he said when met on the sidelines of opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan’s ceramah, ‘Malam Semarak Kasih Felda’, in Jengka last night.

The PH ceramah is the coalition’s latest attempt to get the Felda vote, and also the first ceramah after Najib announced the incentive package.

The RM5,000 bonus, which was said to total RM474.78 million, was announced alongside various schemes to write off the settlers’ debts.

An RM300 million grant was also provided to write off loans that settlers took to replant their holdings.

But even some first-generation settlers, who are among BN’s most loyal supporters, are not banking on these promises.

“We haven’t seen any of the RM5,000. So I don’t care about the incentives,” said Mr Jali Sulong of Felda Jengka 12.

The 66-year-old believes Najib’s announcement was a big election ploy and he questioned whether the government really serious about erasing some of their debts.

For nine years, Jali had worked hard to pay-off RM33,000 he owed to Felda for the latter’s replanting scheme. He thought he had paid off almost all of it by the middle of this year, except for a balance of RM274.

“But then I checked in August and Felda says I owe them about RM2,900. How did RM274 suddenly turned into RM2,900. So, how am I going to believe these promises?”

In his speech at last night’s ceramah, PH chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad also questioned the sincerity of Najib’s promises.

“He may promise you RM5,000 or even RM10,000 but is he really going to pay up? He can promise you anything because he wants your vote, but at the end of the day will he pay?”

Najib’s spurious claims to Felda folk started the moment his administration decided to create Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV) in 2012 and list it on the stock exchange, said Dr Mahathir.

“When he wanted to list it, he promised to all of you settlers that if the price went up from RM4 to RM10, you will all turn into millionaires.”

About 77,934 settler families took out loans of more than RM3,600 to pay for 800 units of FGV shares in 2012. Each month, RM50 is deducted to pay for the loan.

However, FGV’s shares have plunged from a high of RM4.55 to about RM1.66 now. The government has pledged to pay off part of the loans settlers took to buy these shares.

“But look at the price of shares now. Did you benefit from FGV? If Najib offers you money for your vote you must think very hard. Because if you sell your vote, then this country will be ruined for the next five years because his government is the government of a thief,” said Dr Mahathir. THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT

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