Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle
Pointing to news that Sime Darby was poised to report its largest losses ever, perhaps as much as RM2.5 billion, PKR leaders say they feel vindicated and justified in questioning troubled land settlers scheme Felda over the massive depletion in its cash reserves.
“It is a good thing that we persevered and did not allow the government to intimidate us,” PKR Youth Chief Shamsul Iskandar Akin told Malaysia Chronicle.
“They can try to close our newspapers like Suara Keadilan and Rocket but we will continue to expose their wrongdoings especially when it involves the lower-income groups like the Felda settlers.”
Where is the money?
Felda chairman Mohd Yusof Noor had a day ago insisted that Felda’s was financially healthy and lambasted ‘irresponsible quarters’ of trying to fish for votes by making false claims that Felda was bankrupt.
But pundits were unconvinced. They pointed to the RM964 million cost overruns at Sime Darby that was reported last month. Even there was speculation losses could eventually total between RM2 to 3 billion. Malaysian Insider today reported that Sime was set to report losses that could hit RM2.5 billion next month.
As for Felda, last month, it reported a 67 percent plunge in cash reserves from RM4.08 billion in 2004 to RM1.35 billion in 2009. Although it also said RM2 billion was spent on replanting crops, investments in property here and overseas, including a swanky new RM662 million headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, few were convinced that the worst was over.
“Yusof should not try to talk like a politician. He should just answer the most important question, where is the money?” Shamsul said.
Under Najib’s direct care
Of particular concern is the way Felda, which comes under the direct care of Prime Minister Najib Razak, has been spending its hard-earned cash on non-core activities, especially in overseas investments that could prove worthless if market prices plunged.
Those in the agricultural line also say the RM2 billion bill for replanting figure was excessive. Additionally, they questioned the need to spend on such a luxurious headquarters and wondered if the purchase was made because the building was developed by Naza-TTDI, a property firm with close connections to the Umon elite.
“Whether PKR is trying to fish for votes, the problem of misuse of Felda funds is still unanswered. So perhaps Yusof should look at his own backyard before he fires off at others,” PKR strategic director Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.
Meanwhile, PKR newspaper Suara Keadilan remains suspended by the Home Ministry over an analysis of Felda’s financial situation in an article entitled Felda Bangkrap.
The government has also filed an RM200 million lawsuit against the publication and its owners, bolstering speculation it was trying to bludgeon down any closer look into Felda’s books.