Thursday, July 14, 2016

FELDA broke its contract with the Sabah State Government

Sabah supposed to be excluded
Published on: Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Kota Kinabalu: Parti Cinta Sabah (PCS) on Monday supported the call by former Chief Minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh to ask the Sabah Government to take back the 300,000-acre Felda scheme in Lahad Datu over breach of agreement. "The settlement scheme developed by Felda is tantamount to a giveaway of critical lands which were initially meant for landless Sabahans," said its President Datuk Seri Wilfred Bumburing (pic) in a press statement.
"The bottom line is the eventual issuance of land titles to the settlers after the full payment of the portion of the development expenditure by way of deduction from the proceeds of FFB from their individual lots.
"The plantation is now being replanted indicating that the oil palm trees had been about 25 years and the loan definitely been fully paid and the individual titles should have been issued to the settlers," he said.
Bumburing said when he was in the then PBS State Government, he was involved in the recruitment of settlers in the Felda scheme where he chaired the committee who travelled around the State interviewing potential settlers.
He also represented the State Government in the National Land Council chaired by then Deputy Prime Minister Tun Ghafar Baba (during Tun Dr Mahathir's premiership).
"In one of the meetings, he announced the corporatisation of Felda land and instead of getting individual titles, the settlers would be shareholders of the new company. I protested and reminded Ghafar that this cannot be applied to Sabah because there is an agreement between the State Government and Felda and the settlers had to be given their titles.
"Ghafar assured the Council that the corporatisation exercise would not apply to Sabah.
So I was shocked to read Harris' statement (in the Daily Express) that the Sabah scheme had now been corporatised," he said.
He said he later learned that among the reasons for the corporatisation exercise was the political leaning of the settlers in Malaya towards the opposition, particularly PAS, and the only way to control them was by making them only shareholders of the scheme (instead of eventual landowners).
The question that arose, he said, is whether the agreement had been revoked and did the Sabah Government agree to it.
There is also unverified information that Felda had developed more acreage than what had been stipulated in the agreement which is about 250,000 acres in the Sahabat scheme.
"If this is true, then Felda needs to explain the issue on the income earned from this 'free' area.
It is also a known fact that many non-citizens have been hired to work on the plantation and some are rumoured to have occupied lands around the scheme," he said.
On Felda's contribution to Sabah's development, Bumburing said it cannot be denied that there is no visible development project that Felda had undertaken in Sabah. The State is in dire need of good infrastructure and the State Government should demand that Felda plough back some of the big profits they earned into the development.
"There, is however, talk about some contribution by Felda to Sabah through a Federal Ministry but the people are not duly informed as to how the contribution was utilised. "If Felda had breached the agreement, I agree with Harris that the land be taken back by the State Government and the lots given to the Sabahan settlers," he said.
Harris had said that the State Government should demand at least RM21 billion from the over RM30b that the Federal agency reaped from Sabah over the last 30 years, comprising 70pc share being the landowner and 30pc for Felda's management.
If Felda disagrees, then the next course of action should be claiming back the 300,000 acres it acquired from Sabah and redistribute it to the many landless Sabahans for flouting the agreement that it (Felda) signed with the then Berjaya Government that he (Harris) headed. Harris said that under the agreement Felda was obliged to cultivate the land with oil palm and hand them over to the settlers at 15 acres each, as was the vision of Felda's initiator, late Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak.
Harris said Felda only respected the agreement while Berjaya was in power, suggesting that it took advantage of the fall of Berjaya in 1985 to drastically change the agreement by making the settlers not the eventual landowners but mere employees, thus causing many settlers to feel cheated and leave. They were then replaced by foreign workers from a neighbouring country.

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