A week has passed since PKR vice president Sivarasa Rasiah stunned Felda settlers with the revelation that Felda chairman Mohd Yusuf Nor earned RM2 million a year, more than most settlers would ever make in their lifetime.
“I have still not heard from him. We are wondering if he is ever going to give a straight answer. Let me put the challenge to him again, is true that as chairman of Felda and its subsidiaries, Yusuf earns in total as much as RM2 million,” Sivarasa told Malaysia Chronicle.
So far, the Felda chairman has tried to suggest that Siva’s allegations were false, pointing ot that senior officers and the Felda CEO earned far more than him. But he has not answered Siva’s question directly.
“He does not have to make comparisons with the other staff. For now, we are only asking him - what is his total package? Does it come up to as much as RM2 million – just give a yes or no. That’s all,” said Siva.
“You see, Felda is a public agency and it should behave like the public-listed firms where the best practices and corporate governance should prevail. It is standard procedure for the chairman and board of directors to state their income. It is not a private matter but open to public so that people can judge if there is any wrongdoing or if the amount is unjustified.”
Sivarasa is one of the lawyers representing some 766 Felda settlers from Negri Sembilan who are suing the government agency RM200 million for allegedly cheating the settlers when buying their oil palm fruits.
Felda was formed in 1956 to oversee development of rural land for rubber and oil palm planting and to improve the economic status of the landless rural Malay community. It has since grown tremendously and has 811,140 hectares under oil palm, mainly in Malaysia, with operations also in Indonesia.
Of late, public confidence in the agency has suffered after it reported a 67 percent plunge in cash reserves from RM4.08 billion in 2004 to RM1.35 billion in 2009.
Land settlers were not appeased by its explanation on how it spent the cash. According to Ahmad Maslan, the deputy minister overseeing Felda, RM2 billion was spent on replanting crops, while there were also investments in property in Malaysia and overseas.
In particular, Felda’s purchase of a swanky new RM662 million headquarters in Kuala Lumpur caused unhappiness, because the vendor Naza TTDI is known to have strong connections to the Umno elite.
“The fear among the settlers is why Felda is spending money on overseas properties and the luxurious HQ. Why doesn’t it use the cash to improve the Felda facilities or for research and technology into high-yielding crops. Are they trying to benefit any cronies?” PAS secretary-general Hatta Ramli told Malaysia Chronicle.