FELDA plantations, traditionally the stronghold of the Barisan Nasional (BN), by their very design are not easy to penetrate if one is an outsider. The scheme resettled the rural poor to own and work on undeveloped land far away from high-density areas. This created a tightly knit rural community of farmers very protective of their government-endowed land.
It used to be that political campaigners from the opposition found it impossible and dangerous to venture into Felda territory. In February 2012 for example, rowdy BN supporters turned up to disrupt a Pakatan Rakyat (PR) ceramah in a Felda settlement where Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Kota Melaka Member of Parliament Sim Tong Him were speaking.
But just on 23 April 2013, the PKR branch in the state seat of Machap in Malacca organised a ceramah where Anwar would speak deep inside Felda Tun Ghafar Hutan Percha. The PKR candidate in Machap laughs at what she feels is an anachronistic notion today. “If you help the (constituents) and respect them, it’s safe,” says Ginie Lim.
The seat she is vying for is one out of seven state seats in Malacca that PKR is contesting. Lim is facing MCA candidate Datuk Lai Meng Chong, who is the incumbent, and Kita candidate Ravinther Sekaran. In 2008, Lim lost to Lai by 1,639 votes.
Machap’s constituency comprises 11,711 voters, out of which 43% are Chinese, 41% Malay, and 14% Indian Malaysians. PKR is also contesting three parliamentary seats in Malacca.