Felda think-tank set up by Najib to “revolutionise” Felda should visit Felda Sendayan near Seremban to have first-hand understanding of the problems of having a democratic voice and environmental and socio-economic concerns faced by the first generation of Felda settlements
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): Last month, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced the formation of a “think-tank” to “revolutionise” the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) to enhance the image, dignity and living standards of the 1000,000 Felda settlers or 500,000 settler-families nationwide.
Najib, who has been put in charge of Felda settlements in the new Cabinet, said the Felda think-tank with more than 40 prominent people from different backgrounds, departments and expertise, including officials, settlers, academics, industry and elected representatives, will be tasked with charting the future of Felda to take it to “greater heights”.
Najib should ensure that the Opposition is represented on the Felda “think-tank” so that it will be a more balanced body to conduct a comprehensive and in-depth review of both Felda’s successes and failures in the past half-a-century, not only from the economic but also social, cultural, democratic and nation-building point of view.
One of the first Felda schemes the Felda think-tank should visit is Felda Sendayan near Seremban – which was established in 1962, one of the earliest Felda schemes in the country - which will give it a first-hand understanding of the problems faced by the settlers in having a democratic voice as well as their environmental and socio-economic concerns – issues faced by the first generation of Felda settlements.
On Friday, together with the DAP’s two Negri Sembilan State Assemblymen, Anthony Loke Siew Fook (Lobak) and Lim Fui Ming (Bahau), I visited Felda Sendayan concerning the grievances of the settlers who had come up against the wall in their campaign to get the state government to stop the dangerous sand mining in the vicinity of the settlement, detrimental to the personal safety, economic and environmental interests of the 500 settlers or some 5,000 people in the scheme.
What was most shocking was that the licence for the sand mining was issued by the state authorities despite the express and formal objection by the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID), whether by its former Negri Sembilan state director, Batumalai Ramasay in a letter dated 9th May 2003 or the current director, Ahmad Husaini bin Sulaiman in a letter dated 31st March 2004.
In his latter letter, Ahmad Husaini said: “Siasatan ke tapak telah dijalankan oleh pegawai Jabatan ini pada 29 Mac, 2004 dan didapati kerja pembinaan kolam sedang dijalankan dan didapati mereka telah menghalang serta mengalih laluan air semulajadi dari kawasan hulu.”
It is noteworthy that the DID had proposed that the licence for sand mining should include the following technical conditions:
“6. Pemohon tidak dibenarkan menyekat atau mengalih aliran sungai dan anak air yang terdapat di kawasan tersebut tanpa kebenaran JPS. (Jabatan Pengairan dan Saliran)
“7. Pemohon adalah bertanggungjawab terhadap segala kerosakan hartabenda awam yang mungkin timbul dan segala tuntutan pampasan atau pembaikan hendaklah ditanggung oleh pihak pemohon sendiri.
“8. Pihak kerajaan berhak menarik balik kelulusan ini pada bila-bila masa dengan memberi notis bertulis sekiranya pengambilan pasir tersebut menunjukkan kesan-kesan buruk kepada sungai dan persekitarannya. Pihak Jabatan akan membuat kerja-kerja penyelenggaraan menggunakan wang cagaran sekiranya perlu. Sekiranya perkara ini berlaku wang cagaran tidak akan dikembalikan.”
What is shocking is that the licence for sand mining was issued to Permatang Intan Sdn. Bhd., a company which a local UMNO leader has interest, without these conditions set out by DID!
As the Felda Sendayan settlers have complained in their numerous letters to the state authorities, “bantahan kami terhadap kerja-kerja pengambilan pasir dikawasan berhampiran paya yang sedang giat dijalankan, diatas sebab-sebab yang berikut:
As the elected representative for the constituency (Rantau) is none other than the new Mentri Besar for Negri Sembilan, Datuk Mohamad Hassan, it is another “shocker” that the new head of the state government of Negri Sembilan cannot put right what was clearly wrong, irregular, even unlawful, as well as against the welfare and best interests of the Sendayan Felda settlers – who are all his constituents and voters!
Attempts were made to “sabotage” the visit of the DAP elected representatives to Felda Sendayan last Friday, when words were spread that the police had banned our meeting with the Felda settlers on the ground that there could be a “riot”! Permission for the use of the Dewan Orang Ramai was withdrawn, and all the chairs arranged for the dialogue in the hall put under “lock and key”.
The scandal of the Felda Sendayan sand mining raised many issues which the Felda “think-tank” should focus on – the questions of the democratic voice of Felda settlers, the quality of life, good governance and specifically, their socio-economic and environmental rights.
DAP MPs will highlight the plight of the Felda Sendayan settlers and the problems faced by 500,000 Felda settlers in the 275 Felda schemes in Parliament later this month if the authorities are insensitive and unresponsive to their problems, needs and rights.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman & Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor