The sudden appointment of Johor Baru MP Shahrir Samad as the new Federal Land Development Agency (Felda) chairperson is tantamount to an admission by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak that all is not well in the government body.
This, argued PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli, was because the appointment came in the midst of revelations and concerns of alleged mismanagement in the agency.
Allegations which he claimed remained unanswered despite his own serial revelations about alleged improprieties in the federal agency. All of which he said, was met with only silence from Isa Abdul Samad.
"Shahrir's sudden appointment seems to confirm the serious financial problems that Felda is facing and the lessening support of settlers towards Umno after less than exemplary performance of the unpopular Isa," said Rafizi in a statement today.
However, he said that Isa's replacement was not enough, as the responsibility for any Felda misadventures lies squarely on Najib's shoulders, for as the PM, the federal agency lies under his portfolio.
"By right he should resign as well for his failure to develop Felda and its settlers," said Rafizi.
In any case, Rafizi congratulated Shahrir on his appointment and hoped that the new Felda chairperson would accept with an open heart his continuing revelations on the issues that plagued the agency.
He called for Shahrir to table a white paper on the financial state of Felda in the upcoming March parliamentary sitting and to answer his allegations on the agency's Eagle High Plantation purchase, the losses incurred by its housing projects, shrinking reserves and ability to finance the upcoming replanting costs.
Weighing in on the matter, PKR communications director Fahmi Fadzil hoped that Shahrir would be able to revitalise the federal agency which had a prestigious history and was currently responsible for the livelihood of some 112,000 settlers in over 300 settlements.
He noted that the agency had racked up debts upwards of RM6 billion, after losses from the FGV listing and RM3.5 billion loan from the Employees Provident Fund, all just in the last six years.
Fahmi said that this was not an achievement that the agency could be proud of, especially when compared to 13 years ago, under the stewardship of then chairperson Raja Muhammad Alias, when it had repaid all government debts and boasted reserves in excess of RM4 billion.
To revitalise Felda, Fahmi proposed that Shahrir focused on meeting with settlers to repair the rift between the agency and its charges, return to its core business of palm oil production, and stop investing in shares and companies whilst putting resources instead into replanting aged palm trees.
Meanwhile PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man wanted the prime minister to remove Isa Samad from his position in Felda Global Ventures (FGV) as well, expressing worry that the ex-chairperson might create an uneasy situation for Shahrir to reform Felda as he might have to go head-to-head with his predecessor.
While Shahrir was replacing Isa as Felda chairperson, the latter was still to retain his post in FGV, Najib explaining it as ensuring that there was a division of responsibilities between business development and the welfare of the settlers in the agency.
Tuan Ibrahim contended that if Najib really wanted to embody the principle of division of responsibilities, he should resign as finance minister and allow another individual to focus on the post while he concentrated on his duties as PM.- Mkini