Felda denies delay in disbursing RM77m aid to settlers, says complaints about ‘salaries’

Felda will use its own funds to make harvest payments to the farmers. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Felda will use its own funds to make harvest payments to the farmers. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 18 ― State plantation agency Felda today clarified that it has paid out RM77 million in special aid allocated by Putrajaya to over 35,000 cash-strapped farmers, following recent controversy over delayed payments.

The Felda board further clarified that it had looked into the complaints of delayed payment raised by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng and found they concerned the monthly harvest payments for the oil palm farmers, which can be described as their “salaries”.

“Felda has looked into the complaints raised by Lim Guan Eng and found the settlers’ complaints were regarding the harvest payment, that is the salaries paid to settlers based on the sale of oil palm. Those payments are made to settlers twice a month, that is in the middle and end of the month, and subsequently amended to once a month at month’s end.

“This harvest payment is not a part of BSHPH or even the RM77 million special allocation approved by the Federal Government that was disbursed to settlers prior,” it said, using the Malay abbreviation for Bayaran Sara Hidup dan Pendahuluan Hasil, or the living cost allowance and a forward for the harvest brought in by the farmers.

The board added that Felda will use its own funds to make harvest payments to the farmers.

The agency was responding to news reports yesterday citing Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng saying the government is looking into allegations of late payment of the RM77 million special cash aid approved by Putrajaya on December 20 last year.

In its statement today, the Felda board said it had completed the disbursement of the RM77 million in two batches, with the last four days ago.

“The majority of the BSHPH claims were paid on 31 December 2018 and the balance of this special allocation was disbursed in full on 14 January 2019,” it said.

It added that a total of 30,799 settlers received the BSHPH claims on December 31, while another 4,644 got theirs on January 14.

It explained that the sum was payment to registered farmers for the BSHPH, arrears for work to develop their oil palm plantations and payment to the heirs of 120 deceased Felda settlers as part of their death benefits, known in Malay as bayaran khairat kematian.

The Felda board also clarified that only farmers registered for its replanting programme qualified for the special cash aid, and that the 851 settlers in Sungai Koyan in Pahang were not involved in the replanting programme nor had they made any BSHPH claim.