BN still preferred despite Felda woes, says Merdeka Center

ibrahim-sufian-felda-bn-bendera-1PETALING JAYA: Despite all the troubles Felda and its subsidiaries have been facing in the past three months, with allegations of corruption and abuse of power, a political analyst says Barisan Nasional (BN) will still emerge winners in the next general election.

Merdeka Center for Opinion Research executive director Ibrahim Suffian said though reports that settlers have started to lose faith in BN and Prime Minister Najib Razak are true, BN still has a clear advantage, Asean Today reported.

“Despite the opposition’s increased visits to Felda settlements, the chances of winning them over are limited as the opposition currently lacks convincing leadership or clarity of message,” Ibrahim was quoted as saying.

Out of the 222 parliamentary seats, there are 54 seats in which Felda settlers and their families comprise the majority of voters. In the last general election in 2013, BN won all but six of these 54 seats, emphasising their role as “fixed deposits” for the ruling government.

Across the states in peninsula Malaysia, there are also 96 state seats which are in areas with a large number of Felda settlers.

The state assemblywoman for Kuala Sentul, Pahang, Shahaniza Shamsuddin believes that despite reassurances from Najib, the issue of dissatisfaction among Felda settlers over its management “hasn’t fully died down yet”.

Shahaniza, who is also Maran Umno deputy chief, told Asean Today that her constituents still thought only BN could help address Felda’s issues.

“With the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) getting involved, we’re hoping a solution is in sight for FGV’s problems,” she was quoted as saying.

The issue of mismanagement, abuse of power and corruption in Felda and its subsidiaries, including Felda Global Ventures (FGV) and Felda Investment Corporation (FIC), have come under the spotlight since June.

On June 6, FGV made headlines when four of its executives, including its president and chief executive officer (CEO) Zakaria Arshad, were told to go on an indefinite forced leave pending an internal investigation into an issue involving delayed payment from a Dubai-based Afghan company, Safitex Trading, to FGV subsidiary, Delima Oil Products.

On June 8, MACC seized documents in FGV’s headquarters, one day after Zakaria’s meeting at the MACC office.

By the end of the month, Mohd Isa Samad quit as FGV chairman. Then, on Aug 15, he was arrested by the MACC when he went to its headquarters in Putrajaya to give a statement pertaining to investigations into the purchase of a hotel in London by FIC in 2014.

Isa was remanded for five days and was released from detention yesterday. Isa was the Felda chairman at the time of the hotel purchase, and until his tenure ended in December last year.

Yesterday, Isa’s lawyer told reporters that Isa was only held for questioning to assist in MACC’s investigations and was not a suspect in the case. Isa, who is the current Jempol MP, is the former Negeri Sembilan menteri besar.