Najib urges quick, fair resolution of FGV crisis

Malaysian PM makes first comments on controversy at Felda unit amid graft probe

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak attending a breaking of fast programme with settlers at Felda Bukit Sayong in Johor yesterday.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak attending a breaking of fast programme with settlers at Felda Bukit Sayong in Johor yesterday.PHOTO: FOTOBERNAMA

KOTA TINGGI • Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday said the crisis surrounding Felda Global Ventures (FGV) must be resolved quickly through a "fair process", in his first comments on the issue.

The listed company - which is the biggest single producer of crude palm oil in the world - is engulfed in a crisis involving a bitter fight pitting its chairman Mohd Isa Samad against chief executive Zakaria Arshad, who has been suspended amid an investigation by Malaysia's anti-corruption agency.

There have been allegations of improper deals and abuse of power on the part of both Tan Sri Isa and Mr Zakaria, with anti-graft officials carting away boxes of documents from FGV's office last Friday.

The Malaysian government last week appointed former minister Idris Jala to establish the facts behind the spat.

Wading into the controversy, Datuk Seri Najib said: "First, it (the investigation) must comply with the company's laws. Second, it must be in line with good governance, and third, the investigation must go through a fair process."

He made the comments in a speech he gave in Johor while visiting a Felda village.

He added that Datuk Seri Idris will look into the crisis from these three perspectives.

The boardroom crisis could have big implications for national politics as Malay owners of land given to them by the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) form a big chunk of government supporters in 54 of the 222 federal parliamentary constituencies.

Many Felda settlers own shares in FGV, which closed last Friday at RM1.66 - compared with the listing price of RM4.55 in 2012.

Felda is FGV's biggest shareholder with a 34 per cent stake.

Mr Najib was quoted by the New Straits Times (NST) newspaper as saying: "It is the government's desire to have the issue resolved before Ramadan ends."

He said he had been called upon to comment on the matter as it was being widely talked about, NST reported.

Mr Najib's father, former premier Tun Abdul Razak, introduced the Felda land pioneering scheme more than five decades ago to reduce poverty among Malays.

Mr Najib said yesterday: "The government is committed to transforming FGV into a corporate company with high value in terms of revenue and shares."

He was speaking at Felda Bukit Sayong near Kota Tinggi in Johor, during a breaking of fast programme with over 6,000 settlers.

Felda chairman Shahrir Abdul Samad said the land development agency sent a letter two weeks ago to FGV, asking for three of its representatives to take up positions on the FGV board of directors.

But FGV did not respond to its request, he told the Utusan Online news site yesterday.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 11, 2017, with the headline 'Najib urges quick, fair resolution of FGV crisis'. Subscribe