Smallholders in several 'hot seats' in Sarawak will be receiving a small windfall in the days preceding the May 5 polls.
Barely a week ago, Rural and Regional Development Ministry announced that it will disburse RM160 million to some 320,000 smallholders.
Yesterday, Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority (Risda) said it has been “directed” to dispense RM500 to each smallholder.
Interestingly enough, the areas targeted by Risda are among the hot seats identified by Barisan Nasional in the 13th parliamentary election.
Risda has 11 stations across Sarawak and they are in Lundu, Kota Samarahan, Sri Aman, Saratok, Betong, Sarikei, Mukah, Kapit, Sibu, Miri and Limbang.
Among the BN’s hot seats in this general election are Sri Aman, Saratok and Miri.
Other Risda “areas” set to witness strong fights are Sibu, Mukah and Limbang.
Kota Samarahan, however, has a different tale. Its incumbent MP is Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s son Sulaiman. Sulaiman went missing within a year of his election and the constituency has since been under a “caretaker” representative.
In the May 5 polls, Rubiah Wang, a former district officer, is Barisan Nasional’s candidate.
Speaking to reporters here yesterday, Risda state director Wahid Marican Mohamad Daud Marica said Risda has identified over 3,000 recipients.
“We have already lined up a schedule to give out the special assistance to eligible recipients, first in Kota Samarahan and then in Sibu, Miri and Betong.
“We plan to distribute the special assistance within a week as a directive has been issued, expecting us to get it done by May 5,” he said after a state-level integrity seminar organised by Risda for its 128 officers.
Wahid said Risda had received 3,900 applications but had to turn down 675.
“We had a criterion. The disbursement was targeted to smallholders who owned less than 2.5 hectares of land,” he said.
He said Risda is expecting more applications in the coming days as it is working closely with the other agriculture departments.
Government agencies are not the only ones which have been directed to cough out cash for campaign funds.
Yesterday, it was reported that the Sarawak state government had allegedly asked logging concessionaires in Baram to contribute funds to its election campaign.
Fearing the “influence” of money, Baram PKR chief Harrison Ngau said he hoped voters can count and tell the difference between the RM100 given by BN once in five years for their votes and the loss of their native customary rights (NCR) land.