Anwar hopes govt rethinks decision not to pay ‘duit Raya’ to Felda settlers

Anwar Ibrahim speaks to the press after chairing the parliamentary caucus on reform and governance at the Parliament building today.

KUALA LUMPUR: Anwar Ibrahim has urged the government to reconsider its decision not to give special cash payment to Felda settlers ahead of the Hari Raya celebration next month, saying every bit counts for the settlers.

This followed Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali’s statement last week that settlers would not be receiving “duit raya” this year.

“Maybe we can reduce their (financial) burden by giving them a little aid or allowances to settlers who are experiencing hardship during Ramadan and are going to celebrate Raya,” the PKR president and Port Dickson MP told reporters in Parliament today, where he chaired a parliamentary caucus on reform and governance.

Last week, Azmin said the government could not give out the special Hari Raya aid due to the country’s financial situation.

Instead, he said the government wanted to give priority to providing Cost of Living and Advance on Produce incentives for settlers before Hari Raya.

The Felda NGOs National Council had urged Putrajaya to help settlers with cash ahead of the Hari Raya celebration, citing unstable income due to fluctuating palm oil prices.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the matter should be referred to Azmin.

Anwar said he understood the reasons behind the decision not to hand out cash assistance to settlers.

“But when we go to the ground to meet settlers, this was among the issues raised and the concerns are very real. They are enduring hardship during Ramadan,” he said.

“I feel if we give even a little bit is ok.”

Poca, Sosma and minor offences

Meanwhile, Anwar said the caucus wants a review of laws like the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) and the Prevention of Crime Act to allow those charged room to defend themselves.

He said the laws are too rigid, and that mistakes could be made.

He said while the caucus supports action against those who commit crime and terrorism-related activities, laws like Sosma are also applicable to those who wear Islamic State (IS) T-shirts.

“Although the police fear that these people are potential terrorists, we want a detailed scrutiny of minor offences or crimes so that offenders are not further victimised and placed under such conditions, some of which are tougher than the ISA,” he said, referring to the now-abolished Internal Security Act.

In July last year, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government would abolish Sosma, which was passed in 2012. It was widely seen as a replacement of ISA.

The previous Barisan Nasional government had defended these laws, saying they were needed to deter extremists, including those linked to IS.

Under Sosma, individuals can be detained for a maximum of 28 days, and police can delay their access to family and legal counsel for up to 48 hours after arrest.

On Suhakam chairman

The caucus also urged the government to appoint a new Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) chairman as soon as possible, following Razali Ismail’s resignation last month.

“The matter has been on hold for a few months and this does not paint a positive picture. So we hope the government appoints a chairman and committee members as soon as possible,” Anwar said.

Razali resigned on April 16, before the end of his three-year term. He was appointed chairman of Suhakam in 2016.