By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung. Lim Kit Siang, in Ipoh on Saturday, 19.9.1987:
DAP calls on the Cabinet to undertake a policy reassessment of Felda, as to whether it had deviated from its original objectives to develop self-reliant, independent, modern settlers or have turned them into mere wage slaves of an impersonal, bureaucratic and uncaring Felda
Deputy Land and Regional Development Minister, Datuk Haji Khalid Yunus, said in Butterworth yesterday that Felda settlers should “think deeply” before joining the DAP. He claimed that only the Government can help the Felda settlers and no other persons or parties can do this. (NST)
Datuk Haji Khalid reiterared that he would be meeting the Kota Gelangi Empat settlers in Pahang who had formed a DAP Branch to look into their problems.
I hope Datuk Khalid would respect the Felda settlers’ right to join the political party of their choice, for Felda settlers are not ‘captive’ of UMNO of Felda, who forfeit their constitutional rights of free political beliefs when they join a Felda scheme.
The opening of DAP Branches in Felda schemes should be a warning to the government, and in particular UMNO, that it has failed to look after the interests of the Felda settlers, and that the DAP has a role to play and ensure that the Government and UMNO does not take Felda settlers for granted, and must be more sympathic to the problems and grievances of the settlers.
Datuk Haji Khalid should be aware that there is a ferment in the Felda schemes, because both the Government and Felda has become too high-handed and arrogant in their handling of problems of Felda settlers.
This is why in Datuk Haji Khalid’s own constituency, a DAP Branch has been formed in Felda Palung Sembilan. DAP leaders visited Felda Palung Sembilan in Negri Sembilan on Thursday disprove Datuk Haji Khalid’s claim a day earlier that the DAP strength at Felda Palung Sembilan was getting “weaker and weaker”.
In the visit to Felda Palung Sembilan, I welcomed the application of 43 new members, which together with the first batch of 45 applications, represent increasing support and strength of the DAP among the settlers at Felda Palung Sembilan.
DAP leaders who accompanied me on the visit to Felda Palung Sembilan in Negri Sembilan on Thursday were Sdr. Ahmad Nor, DAP Deputy Secretary-General and Chairman of DAP bureau on Felda affairs, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Kepong, Hu Sepang Chairman of DAP Negri Sembilan and MP for Rasah, Lim Guan Eng Secretary of DAP 1990s Movement Task Force and MP for Kota Melaka and Kerk Kim Hock, Publicity Secretary of DAP 1990s Movement Task Force and Malacca Assemblymen.
We received complaints that DAP members in Felda Palung Sembilan had been threatened that they would be sacked from the Felda scheme, and I must warn Felda that the DAP would not allow any DAP member or supporter in the Felda schemes to be victimised. If Felda sacks any DAP member or supporter from any scheme for being associated with the DAP, Felda can expect to be taken to court for infringing the constitutional rights of the Felda settlers.
I hope Datuk Haji Khalid would ensure that the Felda administrators in his own constituency would not abuse their powers, and be fair and just to all Felda settlers, regardless of their political affiliation.
Datuk Khalid and UMNO leaders should not ‘panic’ just because the DAP is making a breakthrough in Felda schemes, but should take this in the democratic spirit of engaging the DAP in a healthy competition to win the hearts and minds of the Felda settlers, instead of resorting to the ugly politics of threats, intimidation and blackmail.
Datuk Khalid, as Deputy Minister in charge of Felda, should realise that Felda, after 32 years, is having a crisis of middle-age, and that what had surfaced to the public is only the tip of the iceberg of the problems in all Felda schemes.
Instead of trying to browbeat Felda settlers from joining the DAP, Datuk Haji Khalid should more usefully spend his time to deal with the problems of the Felda settlers. For instance, Datuk Haji Khalid has not yet gone to Felda Palung Sembilan to have a dialogue with all the settlers. Why is Datuk Khalid afraid to met Felda settlers in his own constituency, meeting only UMNO members whenever he goes to Felda Palung Sembilan?
Felda problems are the concern of all Malaysians, and cannot be the monopoly or exclusive preserve of any one race or political party.
I would call on the Cabinet to undertake a policy reassessment of Felda, as to whether it had deviated from its original objectives to develop self-reliant, independent and modern settlers or have turned them instead into mere wage slaves of an impersonal, bureaucratic and uncaring Felda.
At present there are some 100,000 settlers in the 260 schemes throughout the country, but Felda employs a total of 22,000 staff. This works out to a ratio of one Felda staff to every five Felda settler-families.
The greatest grievance of the Felda settlers is that they are not working for themselves, but for Felda and the 22,000 Felda staff. This is a problem which cannot be resolved by thinking up a strategy to stop the establishment of DAP Branches in Felda. It could only be resolved by loosening the rigid bureaucratic grip of Felda over the lives of the Felda settlers, and ensuring that there is democracy in the Felda schemes.