PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Pakatan Harapan's aim of making inroads into parliamentary seats with Felda settlements will not be a walk in the park, Barisan Nasional leaders say.
The ruling coalition has pledged that its leaders will fight hard to retain its seats by continuing to serve the 119,000 settlers in 317 settlements nationwide and resolving issues that affect them.
In Pahang, where the bulk of Felda settlements are located, 88.5 per cent of settlers had received their land titles, said state Barisan chairman Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob.
"Only 4,948 settlers have yet to receive their titles owing to outstanding debt or because land survey work is still being processed," he said.
Of the 42 seats in the state assembly, 27 have Felda settlements within their boundaries. These settlements also make up 12 of the 14 parliamentary seats in Pahang.
Negri Sembilan Barisan chairman Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said although Felda had been making headlines, the Government had taken measures to safeguard the settlers' interests.
"I don't see why these seats will not remain our fortresses. We have been working hard here and will continue to do so," he said of the Gemas, Gemencheh, Johol, Senaling, Jeram Padang, Palong, Serting, Sungai Lui, Pertang and Chennah state seats.
Mr Mohamad said apart from federal initiatives, the state government had aided Felda settlers in matters such as completing the construction of houses for second-generation settlers in the Pasoh and Pasir Besar schemes.
Perak Barisan chief Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir vowed to defend all seats from the Opposition onslaught, including those with Felda settlements.
"This is war. We will not brush (their threat) aside," he said, adding that Barisan was aware of Pakatan's attempts to penetrate rural areas and the 17 Felda settlements in the state.
Just last month (March), Pakatan chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad joined several leaders in a roadshow at Felda Besout in Tanjung Malim.
Incumbent Kuala Krau MP Datuk Seri Ismail Mohamed Said said it was no secret that the Opposition was gunning for the Felda seats, but he believed the settlers would not buy its promises.
"The Opposition will not stop instigating settlers to go against the Government, but I am confident that they will look at our track record and what we have done for them to judge who among us has their best interests at heart," he said.
The Kuala Krau parliamentary constituency in Pahang has 14 Felda settlements with an estimated 28,000 voters.
Mr Anuar Manap, the incumbent MP of Sekijang, Johor, was confident that the majority of support from Felda settlers would remain with Barisan despite claims by the Opposition that it could capture seats with settlement areas, including his constituency.
He said issues affecting the settlers had been resolved, including the management of Felda at the national level, with settlers happy that the organisation's leadership is under Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad.
"The Prime Minister had also announced incentives for the settlers that will bring significant changes to their lives and those of their children," Mr Anuar said. "This has been met with a good response from the Felda community."
Aside from this, the Johor government had given its commitment to upgrade roads in all settlements and build houses for the second generation of Felda settlers.
On the Opposition gunning for his seat, Mr Anuar said his service to his constituents, including those in Felda, would speak for itself.
"I am an anak Felda (son of Felda). I know their issues by heart and we are doing our very best to help them," he said.
Sekijang has five Felda settlements - Pemanis 1 and 2, Midoi, Kemelah and Redong. Of its 45,000 voters, 11,400 are in Felda.
Political analyst Dr Mohd Akbal Abdullah said that despite fierce attempts from Pakatan, Barisan held an advantage in such areas.
The constant harping on Felda management issues from opposition parties Amanah Negara (Amanah) and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), might backfire, "because they too have some management issues involving their parties", he said.