In an unexpected turn, the incentives promised to Felda settlers raised more eyebrows and questions from the settlers themselves.
The RM1.6 billion deal – seen as electoral goodies – was announced by Najib last week in a bid to boost support for the ruling Umno.
Felda settlers were behind the Barisan Nasional’s victory in the 2013 elections, and securing their votes in the upcoming polls to be held before August 2018, is salient for Najib to remain in power.
The Felda voters gave the BN and Najib enough seats to (23 more than the opposition that won 89 seats) but since then, Najib’s opponents have made inroads in the settlements.
Nevertheless, it is clear that most of the Felda incentives represent write-off of debts with RM947 million earmarked in that direction.
The remaining RM652 million represent grants but a large chunk of it or RM167 million will be paid over five years.
There are terms and conditions attached as this is not money freely given to the settlers to get their votes.
There are some 17,679 settlers who had not sold their products to Felda and who had sued Felda in the process but Najib is dangling the goodies for them to return to the fold.
“However, we are giving them a six-month period starting from next month to cooperate with Felda and to fulfil the requirements set,” Najib said.
He said the settlers who returned to cooperate would be eligible for the six incentives beginning from February 2018.
The opposition is also hitting hard on the ‘goodies’ calling them “candy” to Felda settlers.
The opposition says that out of an allocation of RM475 million,
RM5,000 is in cash form for each eligible settler.
The contribution to reducing the FGV share purchase loan incurred by the settlers involves an allocation of RM128 million
The reduction of RM5,000 settlers’ settlement debt to each settler involves an allocation of RM519 million
The RM300 million fund is in form of a loan to assist in replanting.
“The four main “candy” involved an allocation of RM1.422 billion at the time the Federal Government and Felda had no financial resources.
“Najib needs to elaborate from where his administration will get the RM1.422 billion fund so that the settlers do not become victims of Barisan Nasional’s candy for the second time,” said Rafizi Ramli, opposition MP for Pandan.
Rafizi appealed to Felda settlers and Malaysians to take note that Najib’s administration has used the people’s money and settlers to bribe the settlers with “sweets” before the previous GE13.
After the 13th General Election, Felda settlers and citizens were burdened with the debt taken by Felda to bribe Felda settlers until Felda was in a serious condition now, he said.
“I’m confident that Najib is now using the same tricks – using the people’s money that the people will bear to give bribes to settlers. Finally, the RM5,000 money awarded to the settlers will be Felda’s debt which is equally borne by the settlers later, as has happened before the 13GE,” said Rafizi.