By Nik Nurfaqih Nik Wil
KUALA LUMPUR, March 8 (Bernama) -- Ever since the first settlement was set up in 1958 in Lurah Bilut, Pahang, Felda has met its objectives of eradicating poverty among its settlers.
The long-term programme, a brainchild of the second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, has clearly had an impact on the almost 119,000 Felda settlers throughout the country.
One such person, Ibrahim Seman said he was grateful for being chosen in 1978 to be part of Felda Krau 1, Raub, Pahang. Today, at the age of 61, he no longer need worry about money or the future of his family.
"We now have something to fall back on. Once we had no property, coming from a poor family, who would have thought that today we would own 10 acres of land. All four of my children have also benefited from this," said Ibrahim who moved from Bachok, Kelantan to the Felda scheme in search of a better life.
Like Ibrahim, other settlers have also had similar outcomes, with even the second and third generation enjoying a better lifestyle and some going on to hold key positions in the government and private sectors.
Among them are Datuk Hanapi Suhada from Felda Lyndon B. Johnson who is now Felda director-general, Prof. Datuk Dr. Khairuddin Ab Hamid from Felda Kemendor (now vice-chancellor of University Malaysia of Computer Science and Engineering (UNIMY)) and Tan Sri Rozali Ismail from Felda Gedangsa (executive chairman of Puncak Niaga Holdings Bhd).
A visit to Felda Gedangsa, Selangor; Felda Sungai Klah, Perak; Felda Chiku, Kelantan and Felda Krau, Pahang schemes found that many settlers were living in big bungalows and owned luxury cars, a far cry from the lives of settlers in the early Felda years.
Their lives improved further with the Felda 2.0 plan, a government initiative which includes installing high-speed Internet services, thus opening up economic opportunities for digital businesses, modern agriculture, and eco-tourism.
In addition, last year the government approved the construction of more than one housing unit on each plot of land in the Felda scheme, with more than 70,000 houses expected to be built.
To supplement the incomes of the settlers, Felda is also encouraging the planting of crops like coconuts, with the pioneer project in Felda Selendang, Rompin.
However, Felda which is considered the 'fixed deposit' of BN, is not devoid of issues. But for Rosman Saidin, 52, from Felda Sungai Klah, Trolak, Perak, the majority of settlers, especially the first and second generations, will remain loyal to the party which started the Felda programme.
He said it was better to support the party which had served thousands of settlers and their families than to take the risk of supporting other parties.
Settlers form a key group of voters in every general election as 54 of the total 222 Parliamentary seats were dependant on them.