Felda chairman Shahrir Samad steps down after election loss

Felda chairman Shahrir Samad's resignation came after his loss at the May 9 election, when he failed to defend the Johor Bahru parliamentary seat for Umno. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - The chairman of Malaysia's state palm oil plantation agency, the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda), has resigned, an agency spokesman said on Monday (May 14), confirming earlier reports.

The move follows shock election results in which the coalition that has ruled the country for six decades was defeated.

"Effective today, I resign as the chairman of Felda. My resignation letter has been sent to Mahathir Mohamad, the Prime Minister of Malaysia," Mr Shahrir Samad said in a statement released on Monday evening.

"Seeing as I was elected as Felda chairman by the previous government, it is only fair for me to resign in an institution led by a new government."

Mr Shahrir, a former federal minister, was appointed as Felda's chairman in January 2017.

His resignation came after his loss at the country's May 9 election when he failed to defend the Johor Bahru parliamentary seat for Umno, losing to Parti Keadilan Rakyat candidate Akmal Nasrullah Mohd Nasir by a vote-majority of 19,782.

Shahrir, 69, had previously won the Johor Bahru parliamentary seat six times.

His loss was one of many for Barisan Nasional (BN) candidates in the state of Johor, allowing the Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance to wrest the state from the BN coalition.

Malaysia's palm oil settlers, oil palm farmers working for Felda, have been grappling with rising costs of living and high debt levels due to insufficient incomes.

Both Dr Mahathir's alliance and the coalition led by ousted prime minister Najib Razak campaigned vigorously in Felda settlements leading up to the polls held last week, with both parties promising to improve living conditions and erase debts.

Felda settlers form the majority of voters in at least 54 of the 222 seats in the national Parliament, and have been pivotal in the former ruling coalition winning every election since Malaysia's independence in 1957.

Staff were seen sending him off following the event.

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