Felda activist: Council of Elders backs RCI to probe agency

Mazlan Aliman telling reporters that the Council of Elders has agreed to form an RCI to probe Felda.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Council of Elders has agreed to the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to probe Felda, which is mired in several financial irregularities, says an NGO representing Felda settlers.

Mazlan Aliman, who chairs Persatuan Anak Peneroka Felda Kebangsaan (Anak), said the council told him it was agreeable to forming the RCI during a meeting today.

He said the RCI would investigate losses suffered by Felda and the alleged leakage of funds totalling billions.

“The Felda community has no knowledge of what happened to Felda’s funds, except that its financial position is critical.

“According to the Auditor-General’s Report dated Dec 31, 2016, Felda suffered a net loss of RM1.3 billion and has debts of RM6 billion,” he told reporters after his meeting with the Council of Elders at Menara Ilham.

He said he had submitted a 46-page letter to the council proposing various improvements for the plantation agency.

Mazlan said he suggested the RCI be set up to trace what happened to Felda’s financial assets, especially during Isa Samad’s tenure as chairman.

He also asked the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government to provide urgent financial aid to the settlers to help them celebrate Hari Raya and to fulfil its election manifesto promises to abolish half of their debts.

“The debt burden of the settlers is serious as it has reached RM100,000 in some cases and may escalate if nothing is done to address it,” he added.

The council, set up by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to make recommendations to the government, is headed by former finance minister Daim Zainuddin.

Its other members are former Bank Negara governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, former Petronas president Hassan Merican, economist Jomo Kwame Sundaram and billionaire Robert Kuok.

Kuok, who is currently overseas, is represented by Oh Siew Nam, the non-executive chairman of Kuok-owned PPB Group.

Jomo had last year described the financial crisis in Felda’s listed arm Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV) as more serious than that of national investment fund 1MDB.

FGV president and CEO Zakaria Arshad, who was also called to meet the council, told reporters he welcomed the new government’s commitment to allow government-linked companies (GLCs) to operate without political interference.

He said he also supported the stand to let professionals run the GLCs.

Zakaria, who spent an hour with the council members, said they discussed some improvements to the company, which he would bring up with the board of directors.

Two other persons called up by the council were former Felda general manager Hanapi Suhada and Felda Investment Corporation Sdn Bhd chairman Syed Mohamed Syed Ibrahim.