Despite backlash, Chef Wan says still wants to help Felda settlers

Chef Wan during an interview in Petaling Jaya November 12, 2016. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Chef Wan during an interview in Petaling Jaya November 12, 2016. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, July 15 — Celebrity chef Datuk Redzuawan Ismail or Chef Wan said he will not hold grudges against critics who denounced him for chastising Felda settlers over their alleged lack of industry and ambition.

He said everyone has their own opinion and that one cannot please everybody, something he had said before in a BBC interview in London back in 2012. 

“At the end of the day, I forgive them. There is no point in being vindictive,” Redzuawan said in an interview with the New Straits Times

He also defended his remarks on Felda settlers made last Monday, saying that his years of working with government ministries and bodies has opened his eyes to the people’s problems. 

Redzuawan was also raised in a Felda settlement and was named the 2019 Felda Icon.

“I was taken to Felda settlements in Pahang and Johor. The mak ciks (aunties) there complain to me about the situation and social problems in their community. 

“Even the ustaz, headman and Felda officers have highlighted these issues,” Chef Wan said. 

After receiving the Felda Icon award from Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad during a Felda event in Rompin, Pahang, he went on Instagram to lambaste what he described as the handout mentality of some settlers. 

Among others, he said some would quickly take second and third wives after receiving a windfall before “breeding like cats”.

In the interview, Redzuawan reiterated that he meant his remarks only for those settlers who behaved so.

“People need to read the sentences properly. I did not say all Felda settlers, I said segelintir, which means some.

“There are youngsters who are jobless loafers and drug addicts with no education. All this causes social problems,” he said, adding things should not be turned and twisted merely to obtain votes and political mileage. 

Redzuawan said his conscience is clear on the matter.

“But when I say certain things, certain people call me arrogant, a show-off, rude and insulting,” he said. 

Yet the celebrity chef wants to do his best to help Felda and give back to the community, such as by gathering their success stories and finding ways to help third and fourth generation settlers. 

“The youth are the future after all. There are a lot of young people passionate about what they want to do. 

“It is all about having the right mentality. We have to do it the right way too. Not just give money directly and hope for the best,” Chef Wan said. 

The incident led to a public exchange between Redzuawan and former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak after the latter mocked the celebrity chef over the remarks.

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