Posted: 24 Feb 2011 12:00 AM PST
FELDA settlers in Kerdau and their family members are now the new favourite customers.
It's no surprise, as with a monthly income of about RM3,000, they are the top spenders in nearby towns and to a certain extent, contribute to the retail and service sectors in Kuantan and Kuala Lumpur.
The hike in oil palm and rubber prices since last year has enabled thousands of settlers throughout the country to enjoy higher purchasing power.
The 904 families in Felda Jengka 22, 23 and 25 in the Kerdau constituency, too, are enjoying the windfall. As at yesterday, palm oil reached RM924 per tonne while rubber fetched RM12 per kilo.
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"There are families who earn more, especially those involved in other agricultural activities and livestock breeding," said Shafiee Bakar, a 53-year-old settler from Jengka 22.
"Nowadays, you can see many new vehicles and renovated homes in the Felda schemes."
A handful of the 309 families in Jengka 22 have rubber trees on their plots.
They are now waking up early to tap rubber at their smallholdings, which were used to be ignored.
Jengka 25 manager Zolkopli Soik said the 152 families in the Felda scheme had nothing to complain as their incomes had been increasing since last year.
The settlers will also receive a monthly allowance when they participate in the replanting scheme in the next few months.
In general, the Felda community here is grateful with the Barisan Nasional government. Most of the more than 3,000 voters have always supported a BN candidate.
In the last general election, BN won comfortably in Jengka 22 and 25 despite continuous assaults from the opposition.
Only Jengka 23 bucked the trend, with Pas securing about 45 per cent of the 1,470 votes.
Since the last election, the opposition has been working hard to maintain its support.
Last year, it hosted a national-level convention for settlers in nearby Jerantut, which was addressed by de facto Parti Keadilan Rakyat leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Pas vice-president and Pahang commissioner, Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, who may be a candidate for the Kerdau by-election.
The opposition leaders have been urging Felda dwellers, particularly the second and third generations, to rise against the Felda management and the government, which they claim are treating the settlers like "slaves".
They also blame the government for its failure to provide homes and jobs for the second and third generation of settlers.
But such an argument will not hold water as there is no way a "slave" could earn RM3,000 a month.
"We are no slaves. We are indeed indebted to the government for bringing us out of poverty," said 54-year-old Razali Wahid of Jengka 25.
Like many others in the Felda schemes, Wahid's children have also secured steady jobs and are living in comfortable homes elsewhere with better qualifications.
"Without Felda schemes, many of us would remain poor."
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