Speech by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, when addressing the Malacca DAP state Rural affairs Sub-Committee meeting at Malacca DAP office, 33 A Jalan Munshi Abdullah on Wednesday, 6th September 1972 at 5 p.m.
Call on Government to review its entire Rural Development programmes to ensure that the poor peasantry, and not the rich farmers and landed interest, benefit from hundreds of millions of dollars of public expenditure.
The Second Malaysia Plan, following on the First Malaysia Plan of 1965-1970, promises to materially change the economy of the country and uplift the poor peasantry in the rural areas. Today, however, the poor peasantry are as poor as a decade ago – and there are many farmers in different parts of the country who could not get a decent meal a day.Call on Government to review its entire Rural Development programmes to ensure that the poor peasantry, and not the rich farmers and landed interest, benefit from hundreds of millions of dollars of public expenditure.
Yet, every year, hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent by the government in the rural areas. The experience of rural development in Malaysia in the last decade has shown that these massive government expenditures of capital have benefited the bigger farmers and the landed interest, driving the poorer and smaller farmers and the landless peasants into greater poverty and suffering.
A good example is the Muda Irrigation Project in Kedah which costs hundreds of millions of dollars, and is declared to be to help uplift the poor padi farmers – all of whom are virtually Malays.
But the people who are made wealthy from the multi-million dollar Muda Irrigation Projects are the absentee landlords, the big and wealthy farmers. The small padi farmers and the tenant-operators, instead of improved livelihood, are even more exploited. Because of their poverty and indebtedness, the small farmers were forced to sell out their land to bigger farmers and absentee landlords. The tenant-operators, who hire the land from the absentee landlords, are also thrown out of tenancy because the absentee landlords now find it more economical to combine the small plots of land together to exploit the modern farming made possible by the multi-million dollar Irrigation Scheme. So tenant-operators are thrown out of their tenancy, to become landless peasantry.
I therefore call on the government to launch an entire review of the rural development programmes and the hundreds and thousands of millions of dollars which it is spending in rural development efforts to ensure that it is the poor, the landless peasantry who are getting the benefits, and not the rich, the absentee landlords and the feudalists who are benefitted.
Another good example is the Felda schemes and settlers. When the Felda schemes were started, the Felder settlers were promised that they will be able to get an income of $300 net. In actual fact, many Felda settlers could not get more than $50 a month net, after re-payments to the government for their loans and interests. This is highly ridiculous and a great exploitation of the Felda settlers. The government should review the entire Felda settler income, and work out a scheme whereby no Felda settler would get less than $300 a month as promised by the Government, taking into consideration all the repayments they have to make to the government monthly.