Felda settlers: Replace FGV board of directors, acting chairman

KUALA LUMPUR: Second-generation Felda settlers have called for Felda Global Ventures (FGV) Holdings Bhd’s board of directors and acting chairman Tan Sri Sulaiman Mahbob to be replaced.

The group - Suara Generasi Ke-2 Felda (SGK2F) - said it had doubts about the board’s integrity and influence in the day-to-day running of FGV.

Its adviser Datuk Zulkefli Nordin said Tan Sri Isa Samad, the previous chairman, was still influential.

“And we are also worried that the suspended FGV president Datuk Zakaria Arshad will be turned into a scapegoat,” he told a press conference Monday at a hotel here.

SGK2F communications head Zainuddin Zainal, who was present, said many Felda settlers were excited when Sulaiman was picked to be acting FGV chairman.

“But his and the board members’ words and actions seem to be the same as that of the previous chairman’s. We are worried because as a public-listed company, FGV’s corporate governance is being observed closely by Felda settlers as they too have shares in FGV,’’ he added.

Zulkefli also called on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to clean up what he called the two root problems in Felda - land mismanagement and lack of proper debt statements.

“Without taking care of this, even getting the RM5,000 incentive will not help much in the long run,” said Zulkefli.

The Prime Minister announced on Sunday that the 95,956 Felda settlers’ families would be eligible for a special RM5,000 incentive each.

The other incentives involved debt disposal, setting up of a special fund and grant, as well as a housing incentive.

“Although we are thankful for the incentives, these do not really help for those of us who have to service larger debts,” said Zulkefli.

He said there were second-generation settlers, such as SGK2F chairman Zainuddin Mat Naan, who owed up to RM140,000 with others having higher debts.

Zainuddin Mat Naan said debts came from receiving the RM1,500 living allowance, and paying for land management by Felda Technoplant (FTP) Sdn Bhd, which covered items such as weeding and pruning, fertiliser and levy on foreign labour.

“However, when SG2KF did spot checks, we found the land overgrown with weed, which means FTP did not do its job. But they still billed us,” he added.

With overgrown plantations, he said, Felda settlers could not harvest any oil palm to sell off and pay for the living allowance advancements or land management.

“Ten acres (4ha) is actually sufficient to support a family, but many are in debt, and the interest on the debt is also hitting us hard,” said Zainuddin Mat Naan.

Zulkefli and Zainuddun Mat Naan claimed that Felda settlers also did not get any proper debt statements between 2005 and 2015.

“The agreements signed states that settlers are supposed to receive debt statements every three months,”  said Zainuddin Mat Naan.


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