FELDA–Tun Razak’s Legacy– is the Next 1MDB


July 9, 2018

FELDA–Tun Razak’s Legacy– is the Next 1MDB

by Dr. M Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California, USA

FELDA (Federal Land Development Authority), the massive plantation development scheme that was Tun Razak’s brainchild and crown jewel of his rural development program, threatens to rival the massive scandal of 1MDB in terms of corruption, grand larceny, and inept management.

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IMD/IMEDE-Educated Laundromat Entrepreneur, Shahril Samad

Its new head (now former, with UMNO’s rout in the May 2018 elections), one Shahril Samad, admitted that title to the prime property on which its head office is sited was transferred to a developer without his or his agency’s knowledge! This character claims to have an MBA (from IMD/IMEDE–Switzerland) but his private venture up till then was to run a laundromat. He, in turn, had replaced the scandal-ridden Isa Samad (no relation) who earlier was found guilty by UMNO for “money politics.”

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FELDA Chairman, Isa Samad

FELDA is now a large, diversified agro-based GLC having morphed from its origin as a modest federal agency. It boasts revenues (2017 figures) in excess of RM17 billion. The profit picture, however, is another story and best reflected by its stock price which languishes at about a third of its initial offering price. When FELDA was listed in 2012 as FGV (FELDA Global Ventures), it was the largest in Asia and globally second only to Facebook.

Visit FELDA’s settlements today and compare them to the 1960s or 70s. Nothing much have changed. The settlers’ standard of living has not improved. If there is any economic enterprise on those settlements, they would be under the control of FGV. The social and economic dynamics of those settlements resemble the old company town, except that the company here, FGV, is not in the least benevolent.

There is one significant change which the settlers are not even aware of, or if they are, not appreciate the full financial and other ramifications. Whereas before they had title to their land (about 16 acres each), today that has been subordinated to FGV as part of the IPO. When FGV shares tumbled, those settlers’ assets went with it.

Those settlers as well as FELDA managers do not understand such sophisticated financial instruments as dividends, stock offerings, and capital gains. FGV should have emulated Nestlé and invested in its settlers and not be enthralled with pseudo high finance. FELDA is uniquely positioned to execute that as its leaders and managers are Malays, as are the settlers. As such there would be no cultural barriers in appreciating their problems, unlike Nestlé’s European managers had with their African growers.

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FELDA has done little to stimulate entrepreneurial activities among its settlers. It has not encouraged them through funding or training to be FELDA’s vendors, suppliers, or subcontractors, nothing beyond harvesting the palm nuts and tapping their rubber trees.

I would have expected that with the huge profits FELDA often brags about, the schools and clinics in its settlements would be among the best so as to give those settlers’ children a flying head start, as those of Nestle’s African cocoa growers. Instead FELDA schools perform below average. Regrettable considering that the mission of these GLCs is “national development foundation,” in particular that of Bumiputras.

FELDA has only recently set up a residential school exclusively for the children of its workers. Over half a century later, and only one school! FELDA brags ad nauseum about the few successful “AnakFELDA” (children of FELDA). They are outliers, not the consequence of enlightened policies.

As for the settlements, few have electricity or piped water, much less a clinic. Again, compare that to what Nestlé is doing to those African cocoa growers. Those Malay managers and executives at FELDA ought to be ashamed of themselves and their lousy performances!

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FELDA has introduced little innovation to make the settlers’ lives and work more bearable and less dangerous. Oil palm is harvested in the same old, crude, and dangerous manual ways as it was in the 1960s. FELDA have not introduced hydraulic lifts (like the ones telephone repairmen use to fix overhead lines) to make the harvesting of palm nuts more efficient. Those workers still use pitchforks and bare hands to collect those nuts. Not only do the pitchforks damage the nuts, their sharp shells often scrape the workers’ hands giving rise to painful tumor-like growths (granulomas). Those chores are archaic and literally backbreaking; they should have been mechanized.

Only through such innovations could you increase your workers’ productivity, not endlessly exhorting “work harder!” or “be more efficient!”

FGV is the largest employer of unskilled laborers, meaning, illegal immigrants. Instead of investing in the skills and productivity its workers, as well as modernizing its plantations to be less dependent on unskilled workers, FGV took the easy way out by importing them and with all the attendant social problems.

There is also little research done on maximizing the use of land, as with growing flowers and vegetables or raising livestock in between the trees to raise the settlers’ income.

FELDA has many subsidiaries. All look impressive until you examine their activities; few materially advance the settlers’ plight. Those subsidiaries are but crass opportunities for politicians and civil servants to earn extra-lucrative directorship fees by being appointed to their boards, all at the poor settlers’ expense.

With the resources it has and freed from the micromanagement of the the civil service, FGV could have superb build schools to benefit the settlers’ children.

These GLCs as exemplified by FGV have failed in their primary mission of developing Bumiputra human capital. They succeed only in duplicating existing governmental programs, and adding to the costs. They do not bring in added value despite the tremendous resources, financial and otherwise, expended on them. Good enough reason to get rid of them.

End Outrageous “Double Dipping” By Top Malaysian Civil Servants and GLC Executives


June 4, 2018

End Outrageous “Double Dipping” By Top Malaysian Civil Servants and GLC Executives

by Dr. M. Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California

The revelation by Transport Minister Anthony Loke that the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) Chairman Abdullah Ahmad earns about RM85K a month, while a shocker, is not a secret. It is a long-held practice, and he is not alone. Far from it!

This practice proliferated under Najib, one of the many manifestations of his cash-is-king schemes to buy the loyalty of senior public officials. He of course received much more in return through their loyalty and cooperation, as evidenced by the loot hauled from his private residences after he was booted out of office.

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 Chief Secretary to the Malaysian Government, Dr. Ali Hamsa

Prime Minister Mahathir, who earns less than a quarter of what that Mavcom Chairman gets, has ordered Chief Secretary Ali Hamsa to review the remunerations of top public officials as well as heads of GLCs and statutory bodies.

There is no need for such a review. Instead, Mahathir should just ban them from having extra income beyond their salaries. They are being paid to devote their time and effort exclusively to their current positions. Theirs is not a 9-5 job; they have no business assuming added responsibilities except in an ex officio capacity. For that they already have generous allowances to cover the expenses incurred, as with traveling and lodging.

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Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) Chairman Abdullah Ahmad–The RM85,000 (per month) Man

Ali Hamsa is also the wrong person to undertake such an important review. Foremost is the issue of conflict of interest. He is as guilty as that Mavcom Chairman. Hamsa should begin by declaring how much extra compensation he was paid in addition to his regular salary as Chief Secretary by virtue of appointing himself to be on the various boards. The recently-disgraced Treasury Secretary Irwan Serigar was on Khazanah’s and Bank Negara’s Boards, as well as others not yet revealed. He must have raked in substantial additional income from director’s fees.

Ali Hamsa, Irwan Serigar, Abdullah Ahmad and countless others are guilty of double dipping into the public purse. The poor rakyat bears the burden of such rampant lucrative practices.

Ali Hamsa is also ill-qualified to undertake such a review. He has spent all his career in the civil service. He knows nothing of the culture or value of talent in the competitive private sector. He has been receiving not giving out paychecks all his life; he has no appreciation of the challenges in having to meet a payroll

Scrutinize the corporate structures of many GLCs and statutory bodies. They have myriads of subsidiaries and associated companies. The reason is simple – management greed; more corporate entities, more board of director’s positions! Ever wonder why those GLCs and statutory bodies lose money.

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The High Flying and Publicity Seeking Former Secretary-General to the Treasury, Irwan Serigar Abdullah, now in cold storage at Intan

If companies like Petronas need outside directors, the Professor of Petroleum Engineering from the University of Malaya would be a far superior choice than a recently retired Chief Secretary to the government. All the latter would do is graft the stultifying civil service culture onto the company.

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Tabung Haji Chairman Abdul Azeez Rahim with a Phd from Preston University who was a used car salesman

Appointing that professor as director would also be a way to augment his otherwise meager academic pay. That might just be the inducement for him to stay on campus instead of joining the private sector, to the loss of his students who would be the country’s future petroleum engineers. The professor would also gain real world experience, again to the benefit of his students. Likewise with Tabung Haji. Why not appoint the local Professor of Economics or Accounting to its board? That would be far superior than having that mamak with a PhD or MBA from Preston University!

 

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 Isa Samad–Former FELDA Chairman and Head of SPAD

 

Another common and lucrative double-dipping scheme occurs when retired civil servants or former public officials are appointed to statutory bodies or GLCs. The number one culprit in the news today is Isa Samad. He is notorious for other reasons. For this discussion, while he is drawing a substantial pay as the head of SPAD (the Malay initials for the federal public transportation agency), he is still getting his pension as a former MP and a Federal Minister, as well as that of a State (Negri Sembilan) Chief Minister, and as a state legislator (ADUN). Beyond that he is also getting one for being the former head of FELDA. These entities may have different names but their paymaster is the same – the rakyat.

Such “double dipping” should be banned. If a retired civil servant or public official is appointed to a GLC or statutory body and he is getting a regular salary, then he should not be allowed to draw on the pension of his previous job. Instead he should be considered as continuing to work for the same paymaster but in a different capacity. Of course if he were to start his own business or be employed by a private company, that would be a different matter. In that case he should be entitled to the government pension of his old job.

If such a policy were to be instituted, then all those soon-to-retire civil servants would remain busy in their jobs instead of preoccupying themselves lobbying for a post-retirement position in a GLC or statutory body.

There would two immediate positive effects of such a policy. One, those civil servants would now be less likely to be seduced by their political masters as is the current culture. They would now be more likely to be independent if not outspoken in disagreeing with their political superiors. That could only be good for the country’s administration.

The other positive effect would be to encourage more Malays (most civil servants are Malays) to enter the private sector either as employees, directors, or to create their own businesses. That would increase the rate of Malay participation in the private sector far more effectively and efficiently than starting expensive and often money-losing GLCs. They would then be more like Rafidah Aziz with Air Asia, or set up their own professional practices as Aziz Abdul Rahman, former Managing Director of Malaysia Airlines, with his own law firm.

In the 1960s Tun Razak lowered the retirement age (it was 55 then) so enterprising young civil servants could retire to start their own businesses. That initiative spawned many Malay-owned businesses. This was also the practice of the Italian government and resulted in the blossoming of entrepreneurial activities spurred by young retired civil servants who had the safety net of their retirement income.

This double dipping by senior civil servants and public officials costs the nation a hefty bundle. With Malaysia’s debt now exceeding a trillion ringgit, the nation can ill afford such outrageous wastage. Time to ban double dipping outright. There is no need for further unnecessary studies.

GE-14: Get even today and throw out the corrupt UMNO Hegemon, Najib Razak


May 9, 2018

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Today, MAY 9, 2018, is Polling Day in Malaysia. Voters must go out early to respective polling stations. Don’t forget to bring your identity cards and check the electoral register to verify that your name is in the register. Vote carefully since a spoilt vote favours UMNO-BN. Unlike the writer of this article below, S Thayaparan who is “angry”, you can remain cool and calm. Just get even by voting for the alternative Pakatan Harapan led by  Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in large numbers.–Din Merican, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

GE-14: Get even today and throw out the corrupt UMNO Hegemon, Najib Razak

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

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“I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!… You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

– Howard Beale, ‘Network’ (1976)

COMMENT | It is the eve of this great election. ‘Great’ to me is an ominous word. So much hope has been put in this election by folks who want change. I do not fear the Umno state. What I fear is that the hope of change is but an illusion. That the people who claim to lead for change will not transform this country before it slips into the delusional dreams of Islamic extremism.

Image result for najib razak and rosmah mansorNow it is the time to take this toxic couple out of Seri Perdana

 

What I do know is that if we do not take this first step, we are really screwed. A first step that we have never been in a position to take and if we do not, we would have lost the single best chance to change this country. If we do not finally have a two-party system, then we will only be able to watch as our country slips further down the dark path of totalitarianism. You think it’s bad now, wait and see.

For the record, my definition of a two-party system is a system where two coalitions have had a chance to govern the country. We have never had this. Yes, the opposition has made gains and is a credible threat to the Umno/BN establishment but we have only known UMNO rule and whatever permutations of it since Independence.

I know this man. A “pakar” Malay officer who worked his way up, as we say. He revered Tok Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat and was a lifelong member of PAS, even back in the day. We reconnected in the heady days when PAS took to the streets after the ejection of then Deputy Premier Anwar Ibrahim from Umno paradise.

He still referred to me as “Tuan” and it was the happiest day of his life when PAS formally joined Pakatan Rakyat. With the passing of Tok Guru and the fragmentation of PAS, he quit the party. His family and most of his friends joined him.

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Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah Mohamed Ali–Malaysia’s  Couple of the Moment with Decades of Public Service.

Then former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad made his play with the opposition. This old sailor who had left PAS and was thinking of sitting out in this election was suddenly stirred. He can’t explain it. He knows for a long time that Mahathir was the “mahafiraun”. It was what PAS had taught him.

However, these days he sees PAS cuddling up with UMNO and he hears how Mahathir wants to correct his mistakes that he made when he was with UMNO. He sees Tok Guru’s family “manipulated” by UMNO. He sees mothers turning against sons. He sees an old adversary not allowed to visit the grave of a religious scholar who once led the way. This old sailor is angry.

Now, of course, most of them (like my sailor friend) are retired but when they hear the call by their old Prime Minister, they understand that UMNO is not to be trusted. They tell their friends and families. They make it known by going to ceramahs. They donate to the cause, even though they do not have much.

These are not the service personnel – the high-ranking officers who got fat from the gravy train. These are the men and women who served on the ground. Who understood that the state security apparatus was a branch of government and that there were some honour and dignity in serving.

He has repented, my old colleague says to me. “Soon, there will be many in PAS, who may have to repent as well.”

Anyone who has read my articles will know that my issue with PAS is not their Islamism. My issue with PAS is their Umnoism. My friend will not join any political party, but he will vote Pakatan Harapan in this election. From now on, I am independent, he says.

Your choice

Now, of course, the “choices” in this election may seem identical but eventually, these will be refined or redefined. The first step is understanding that you have a choice. This is what UMNO fears. This is what the former Umno prime minister is banking on – that people will take that leap of faith. That the Malay community realises that they have a choice. And because the Malay politics is defined by Malay institutions, he wisely chooses to directly appeal to those institutions.

Will things change? Who knows? I do know that after decades of being ruled by Umno, things have to change. I do know that after decades of being told by successive UMNO potentates that they are the only ones who can rule this country, that things have to change. I do know that after decades of UMNO rule, our country is heading down a dark path and it’s not because of the corruption or the systemic discrimination but because the underlying policies of Umno – using religion – has opened the majority to influences from the outside that would bring ruination to this country.

Could the opposition bring this change? I have no idea. I only know that we cannot carry on this way. We cannot carry on believing that this country is doing well when there are no political voices to dissent against the hegemon in Putrajaya. I know that if politicians think that it is their birthright to rule this country in perpetuity that this will only lead to sorrow.

I know that if politicians continue to think that they are not accountable to the people, they will continue suppressing voices of dissent. The UMNO regime is doing everything in its power to stack the deck. They are doing everything in their power to ensure a victory that they do not deserve. This is politics, they say, so what has “deserve” got to do with it.

Fair enough, but every time the establishment does something like this, they make people angry. I am not talking about the vitriol that some opposition supporters display online. I am talking about the real-world anger that could manifest in so many ways.

In a Muslim-majority country, this is especially dangerous. I am on record as saying that the greatest danger to this country is the National Security Council Act. There is a reason for this obnoxious law. But I think that the state security apparatus understand that their role is to facilitate a smooth transition of power and not hamper it.

All I know is this. After decades of rule by a single party, watching the corruption, the bigotry and smug assurance of rule, I am mad as hell and I am not going to take this anymore.

We can worry about how we are going to reform the system later. We can worry about how we are going to reform the institutions later. We first need to take the first step with people who say they are interested in doing those things and have never – well, the majority of them – had the opportunity to govern this country.

If the opposition carries out even a quarter of what they promise, that would be something that the country desperately needs.Are you as mad as hell and not going to take this anymore?


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

The Rule of Law is a Joke in Malaysia


March 5, 2018

The Rule of Law is a Joke in Malaysia

by S. Thayaparan@www.malaysiakini.com

Those who corrupt the public mind are just as evil as those who steal from the public purse.”

– Adlai Stevenson

Image result for Bullshit Najib RazakMalaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak is Above the Law

 

COMMENT | Are Malaysians experiencing a 1MDB fatigue? I think Pakatan Harapan supporters are experiencing it but the demographic that props up UMNO is feeling crappy about a whole range of issues and 1MDB is not one of them. All these foreign reports about the ongoing case of perhaps the biggest kleptocracy incident in the world mean nothing to the people who sustain UMNO.

It goes without saying that this kind of sucks. I mean, people think it is business as usual when the Australian Police freezes the account of a high-level state security officer on suspicion of money laundering or proceeds of a crime. Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department Director Wan Ahmad Najmuddin Mohd denies wrongdoing, but claims that it would be too expensive for a court action to retrieve the money.

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The Face of a Corrupt Malaysian Police Officer

If the monies were bribes of some kind, who paid him? What were they getting in return? Beyond his allegedly guilty actions and the non-consequences he faces here, what kind of consequences would the country face by the hands of the people who (allegedly) put money in his bank account?

Crime? Terrorism? Who knows? Certainly not our state security apparatus which considers the matter closed. Certainly not establishment politicians who probably are worried about their own accounts all over the world. I would add opposition politicians but the state seems more interested in discovering their alleged criminal wrongdoings then their overlords in Putrajaya. And while their minions are fair game, essentially the protected Umno class is safe for the time being.

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Najib Razak’s Horndog Nur Jazlan Mohamed with the Most Corrupt Prime Minister

Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed wonders why Australia is trying to “embarrass” Malaysia as if the act absolves the person from the criminality or whatever else the embarrassed party is attempting to hide. These kinds of statements want to make me vote against the Umno hegemon just for spite.

Indonesia seizes Jho Low’s superyacht, Singapore seizes Jho Low’s private jet and everyone thinks, that this is it. This is the smoking gun. However foreign powers have their own crimes to hide, their own banking institutions to protect, so small fish are roasted over the fire of international opprobrium while the game goes on. Putrajaya knows this. They understand deals can be made, which is why the old maverick bemoans the fact that we are slaves to foreign powers.

Opposition political operatives call and tell me that this 1MDB issue is not gaining traction with the demographic that sustains UMNO. “They do not understand the issues involved,” they decry. They do not understand? On the best of days, I barely understand it and I was a practicing lawyer. Going about chanting 1MDB and expecting people to choke on their outrage and decide to vote for you is not going to work.

It boggles the mind that they are politicians when they complain that certain issues distracts from the whole 1MDB scandal. Well yeah, but if the 1MDB scandal is not gaining traction maybe you should discover issues that does gain traction with the people whose votes you want. The most important thing is realising that the 1MDB scandal is not the single issue which will bring down the current regime.

1MDB is big city stuff

Do not get me wrong, corruption is a major issue but I think sometimes, the strategists within Harapan conflate online chatter with the real life. Corruption does not solely have to be about the biggest case of kleptocracy the world is witness to. There are enough cases of corruption that have a direct, profound impact on local polities that would ensure that the current regime is benched.

I absolutely love it when the opposition highlights cases that demonstrate where the government has screwed the demographic that sustains them and let us face facts, with the FELDA case for instance, there were immediate and still ongoing consequences for the UMNO establishment and the opposition has gained points with the people whose votes matters most.

Anecdotally speaking, when young Malay voters write to me, they more often than not speak to me about the FELDA fiasco and the Tabung Haji fiascos and how the opposition “did good” and rarely about the 1MDB case which just confuses them.

 

Get this straight. Malaysia is not made up of people with pitchforks chanting 1MDB and hoping for regime change, simply to dispose of a kleptocratic regime. Is there dissatisfaction that the opposition can capitalise on? Yes, there is but the opposition needs to recalibrate their narratives to get people to vote for them. They cannot whine and stomp their feet that people are unwilling to see that 1MDB is the baddest thing to happen to this country. While it may be the biggest case of its kind, the reality is that Malaysia was a failing state way before the current bunch of kleptocrats took over.

Some folks have asked me, why I do not care about gerrymandering and other kinds of electoral legerdemain. It is not that I do not care but rather because I know if opposition politicians grab the peoples’ interest, waves of voters supportive of them will overcome any breaches of electoral malfeasance. The more people you convince to vote for you, the less effective the dirty electoral tricks of the establishment.

My advice is always stay local. 1MDB is big city stuff. That is realpolitik. UMNO knows this, which is why they play offence when it comes to this issue. What Harapan should be doing is dredging up state-level corruption. The goal is to get UMNO to drain its war chest by attempting to put out fires started by local oppositional operatives screaming blue murder about state-level corruption. There is only so much money and the UMNO state cannot be everywhere.

 

If local, state-level, village-level, corruption where bandied about in concert with the 1MDB fiasco, UMNO would have no choice but to get on the ground and deviate from the standard propaganda they shovel out by the buckets loads. They would have to engage with the opposition which are relatively “clean”.

For years, UMNO has never addressed these issues because the opposition were intent on not deviating from their own scripts which plays well with urban and semi-urban audiences but is ineffective with the demographic that sustains UMNO.

As I said, “corruption” does not have to be solely about 1MDB. While foreign powers will extract their pound of flesh for the sins of 1MDB, the only people who will hold this regime accountable for corruption is the voting public of Malaysia. The trick is not thinking that 1MDB is the greatest con perpetrated on the people of Malaysia.


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Malaysia’s Vaunted Land Distribution Scheme Turns Sour


 

February 22, 2018

Malaysia’s Vaunted Land Distribution Scheme Turns Sour–Crony Capitalism is alive and well

by John Bethelsen

https://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/malaysia-federal-land-development-authority-turns-sour/

Malaysia’s long-praised Federal Land Development Authority, or Felda, founded in 1956 to resettle the country’s rural poor into newly reclaimed jungle areas to enable them to grow crops such as palm oil and rubber, has lost RMB1.5 billion (US$382 million) in a political deal to prop up a friend of Prime Minister Najib Razak, according to an internet news portal covering the international palm oil industry.

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Peter Sondakh (Tan Sri) of the Rajawali Group  seen with another Najib Crony, Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia Dato Seri Zahrain Hashim

The International Palm Oil Monitor, established in 2017 to cover the industry, quoted a due diligence report prepared by the KPMG international accounting firm detailing what it called “numerous concerns/improprieties” including cash flow problems, an inflated acquisition price, non-compliance with laws and regulations, excessive borrowing and excessive amounts which are due for repayment to the banks and tax evasion in the purchase of 37 percent of the flailing Indonesia-based PT Eagle High Plantations TBK oil palm concern controlled by Peter Sondakh, an Indonesian Chinese, through his Rajawali Group, named a Tan Sri, one of Malaysia’s high-ranking if arcane honorifics.

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The Saviour of FELDA–Najib Crony Tan Sri Shahrir Samad

“Essentially, as we know, the purchase was a bailout of Eagle High and Peter, who is a good friend of Najib,” said a well-connected businessman in Kuala Lumpur. “Peter owns the St Regis Hotel in Langkawi and in Bali, among other things. Last year, Najib and family and friends spent two holidays in Bali – all courtesy of Peter. Last weekend, they were in the St Regis in Langkawi for Chinese New Year holidays, again courtesy of Peter.”

The KPMG report was actually produced about a year ago and has been written about, although it has been handled very carefully by Malaysia’s mainstream press, all of which is controlled by the government. According to the International Palm Oil Monitor, Eagle High has also received intercompany interest-free advances of US$26 million – none of which has been repaid. The US$505.4 million for the 37 percent is said to have been a 95 percent premium to the closing price at the time, or Rp580 (US0.042 cents) per share. Eagle High is now trading below Rp204 per share.

Although the story has been floating around, it has achieved added significance because Felda has become a major issue in Malaysia’s upcoming general election, which must be held before June 26 and is likely to be called sometime in April, political analysts in Kuala Lumpur say.

Image result for Peter Sondakh and Najib RazakJawabnya–Crony Najib Razak
 

The land scheme, which is given major credit for keeping rural Malays and Indians loyal during Communist attempts to take over the country in the 1950s and 1960s, is in deep trouble from a variety of sources. It is almost sacred to the Barisan Nasional, or national ruling coalition, and particularly the United Malays National Organization, so much so that it is called UMNO’s fixed deposit.

Under the scheme, new settlers were each given 10 to 14 acres to cultivate crops, usually rubber or oil palm. They were required to reside in planned villages where their homes, built by FELDA, were located and included piped water and electricity. Schools, medical centers and places of worship were also provided. The schemes were designed as cooperatives.

But the government engineered a disastrous initial public offering in 2012 on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange. The thousands of smallholders who bought what became known as FELDA Global Ventures at the time of the IPO saw their investments fall by half because of disastrous mismanagement.

While the shares surged in 2017 following a management change, the original owners who form UMNO’s vote bank have been furious. Net profit fell by more than 96 percent between 2012 and 2016. For the past year, the entity, which is the world’s largest crude palm oil venture in the world, has been attempting to cope with the Eagle High scandal.

Enter Mahathir Mohamad, the fire-breathing 92-year-old former Prime Minister who has vowed to drive Najib from office. He has campaigned implacably in the Felda areas, saying the scandal is a textbook example of how to steal from the government.

“With all the bungling in Felda, this adds to the woes of the BN as far as getting support from Felda settlers in the General election,” said a Kuala Lumpur-based political analyst. “These are people who loved Mahathir and remember back to his period in office as a time when the country’s economy never stopped growing.”

They are also the people who the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition, with its component the Democratic Action Party, has never been able to touch significantly because of their mistrust of the ethnic Chinese.

Today, according to a February 20 release by the International Palm Oil Monitor, “Felda is sitting on a paper loss of approximately US$300 million. Additionally, Eagle High’s market capitalization is below US$420 million, which means Felda’s 37 percent is now valued at just US$155.4 million, less than one-third what it paid in the first place.

Image result for Isa SamadFormer FELDA Chairman and Najib crony Tan Sri Isa Samad taken in by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commmission but later released. It turned out to be another charade

 

Eagle High’s problems have been compounded by the fact that in April 2017, the European Union pushed through a regulation to ensure that palm oil imported must come from sustainable sources after 2020.

“This does not bode well for Eagle High, whose unsustainable palm oil practices as well as its lack of RSPO and ISPO certifications have been widely documented. Given this, it is unlikely that Eagle High’s revenues will improve in the coming years. In fact, it is more likely to decline once the European Union regulation takes effect,” the Palm Oil Monitor said. “All in all, it looks like Felda’s investment in Eagle High has proven to be a complete bust and did not pan out the way Felda had hoped.”