Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Settlers accuse Felda of fraud and discrimination

Disgruntled settlers in and around Hulu Selangor have lodged a formal complaint with the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) against the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) for fraud, human rights abuse and widespread discrimination.

National Association of Felda Settlers’ Children (Anak) president Mazlan Aliman, who handed Suhakam the memorandum on behalf of the settlers, said many of them were angry with Felda for refusing to release their land titles despite having cleared their debts with the scheme.

“Some settlers have said that Felda authorities have even threatened to evict them from their land schemes.

“There’s just so many issue. There are over 25,000 settlers who have been short-changed by Felda.

“Felda has forgotten its roots and is now turning against its own,” said Mazlan in reference to the original idea of the schemes which was mooted by the late Prime Minister Abdul Razak Hussein in 1956.

Razak, who is Prime Minister Najib’s father aimed for the schemes to power the economic development of the rakyat under the New Economic Policy, which it did to some extend.

Golden goose

Felda is currently Najib’s golden goose not only in financial terms but as a vote-bank. Felda schemes nationwide house over one million voters, and in the upcoming by-election Najib’s BN is desperately needing settlers’ undivided support.

At a recent gathering in Felda Soejarto, Najib had urged settlers to vote for BN in the Hulu Selangor by-election on April 25 if they wanted his continued attention.

Najib’s warning in Felda Soeharto however may go unheeded and he has only Felda to blame.

According to Mazlan, settlers had, until now, not received reseeding funds which were promised to them.

“We have received various complaints from the settlers. Some have complained about denial of basic rights, others have said Felda is withholding their reseeding funds.

“Yet more have said that Felda is refusing to give settlers licenses to sell oil palm produce and access education and entrepreneur loans, “ he said, adding that Felda had also recently slapped a RM100 per acre levy on settlers wanting to re-planting their scheme.

This, he said, was not inclusive of Felda’s fee for “advising’ planters on the re-planting programme.

“This is greed. Why are they charging the settlers a fee in the first place, after all it is Felda who is developing the settler’s land and raking in a larger chunk of the profits. It’s outright cheating,” said Mazlan.

Rising social ills

He also drew attention to a increasing rate of social ills in the schemes which the Felda authorities refuse to acknowledge.

“Lee Lam Thye from the Crime Prevention Foundation was spot on when he said crime rates were on the rise in Felda schemes. We cannot ignore this anymore.

“We have a lot of youth related problems on the scheme. Drugs, alcohol, gambling and unmonitored socialising among genders are rampant, “ he said.

Mazlan said Felda was developed under the Group Settlement Act 1960 (GSA) but today the government used it as ‘tool to control all actions and activities of the Felda settlers.’

He said the gap between the settlers, Felda management and the younger generation was wide and issues involving basic rights, power abuse and disharmony was not easy to deal with.

by FMT

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