PETALING JAYA: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim revealed that he has spoken to tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary to clarify that the monopoly of rice importing in the country was not a concession of any kind, and was originally awarded to Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas) and not to any individual.
In a press conference held after a special cabinet meeting, Anwar said Syed Mokhtar had purchased 31% of Bernas’s shares from Tan Sri Tan Boon Seng for RM800mil, and from a company owned by former Federal Territories minister Tan Sri Shahidan Kassim for RM400mil.
According to the Prime Minister, Syed Mokhtar has made the commitment to allocate RM10mil this month to help poor paddy farmers and RM50mil via Bernas in 2023 after the discussion with the entrepreneur.He reiterated, “I wish to give the guarantee that the government under my leadership will no longer easily allow the accretion of wealth by politically-connected figures through the sucking-dry of poor paddy farmers.”
According to reports, Bernas controls 30.6% of the local rice market where it imports rice from countries such as Thailand and Myanmar to meet local demand, while Syed Mokhtar himself owns almost 92% of the rice importer through his four companies, namely Perspective Lane (M) Sdn Bhd, Kelana Ventures Sdn Bhd, Seaport Terminal (Johore) Sdn Bhd, and Acara Kreatif Sdn Bhd.
The Prime Minister also suggested his government could review the permit given to Bernas.