KL CHRONICLE: The evolution of FELDA under Barisan Nasional

Monday, July 20, 2015

The evolution of FELDA under Barisan Nasional

Menara FELDA, one of the most iconic landmark in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The Federal Land Development Authority (more commonly referred to as FELDA) is a named that is feared by the Malaysian opposition parties namely the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party (DAP) with the support of opposition media portals whom have tried for years to destabilize FELDA in order to break the dominant Barisan Nasional from forming the Federal Government. People might ask why DAP is hellbent on tearing FELDA apart, but the answer is simple. FELDA provides undivided support to the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) political party, which is one of the coalition members of Barisan Nasional. 

FELDA was founded to handle the resettlement of rural poor into newly developed areas and to organise smallholder farms growing cash crops. At that time, the majority of the rural poor were the Malays, who are also known as "Bumiputera" which means the "sons of the soil". In addition, the formation of FELDA was to  change the social and economic condition of the poverty-stricken rural Malay community. Ironically, FELDA was formed by Tun Abdul Razak, the father of Malaysia's current Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Haji Najib Bin Tun Abdul Razak. 

Tun Abdul Razak understood that in order to uplift the Malay community and make them at par, if not better compared to the Chinese whom at that time were the "towkays" of this country, he needed to assist the Malays by improving their social and economic condition. Since Malaysia was not a rich country in "cash" , the next best thing that we had was "land" and we had to work on our land to ensure we made money out of it. Since Kelantan was a majority Malay state, it was the first state a FELDA settlement was opened. 

As mentioned above, the first settlement financed by Felda was located in Air Lanas, Kelantan, and saw the relocation of 400 settlers over 1,680ha in March 1957. The settlers, the majority of whom were bumiputeras, were picked from poor rural areas with priority given to those who had no land.They were assigned 4ha to 6ha of land to cultivate either rubber or oil palm and paid wages until their crops matured.

From humble beginnings in 1957 and full support from UMNO and the Barisan Nasional government, By 1990, 114,400 households had been resettled on some 500,000ha. In the same year, Felda stopped creating new settlements and became a statutory body that could generate its own income from its diversified businesses as the state governments re-designated agricultural land for industrial and commercial use.In order to not only focus on agriculture and limit its (FELDA) income, FELDA branched out into economic ventures such as milling, marketing, property and transport which then provided with a stream of high income returns. 

Due to the high returns from its investment and also good harvest by the Malay majority settlers, FELDA then launched a number of private corporate entities, such as Koperasi Permodalan Felda Malaysia Bhd (KPF) and Felda Holdings Bhd (FHB). KPF’s job was to offer Felda settlers an assortment of financial services and protect their well-being while FHB undertook the authority’s commercial activities. Later, Felda Global Ventures Holdings Sdn Bhd was set up for the group’s international businesses while Felda Investment Corp (FIC) was established as an investment arm to undertake business activities that were non-plantation-related to boost contributions to the settlers.

In 2012, only after 40 odd years in operation, with the support of  Malay majority settlers, UMNO and the Barisan Nasional government, FELDA was dubbed the world’s largest crude palm oil producer and Malaysia’s second largest palm oil refiner, FGV is the third largest palm oil company in the world by planted acreage.As at its IPO, FGV controlled about 500,000ha that were managed by 112,600 Felda settlers and another 355,864ha of leased land in Malaysia alone. 

With all the success that FELDA has had, and the strong support its settlers provide to UMNO and Barisan Nasional, FELDA is now being attacked mercilessly by politicians mercenaries who want to destroy FELDA and turn the settlers against the government. This plan has been in place since 2008 when the opposition parties came to realize that without breaking up FELDA, the opposition parties would never be able to form the federal government and replace Barisan Nasional. 

My message to the FELDA settlers, beware of certain political parties that wants to "help" you when in fact all they wish for is to tear FELDA apart for the own political benefit. UMNO and Barisan Nasional has been with you for 50 odd years and will continue to be with your another 50 years to come as the Malay saying goes, 

"Berat sama dipikul, ringan sama dijinjing". & "Bersatu kita teguh, Bercerai kita roboh"

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