PUTRAJAYA: The monopoly to import rice by Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas) has been terminated, the Cabinet decided.
Announcing this yesterday, Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Salahuddin Ayub said a working paper on breaking up the monopoly would be drafted with feedback from both the ministry and other stakeholders before being submitted to the Government for further action.
“To protect the interests of local padi farmers, we have identified the modules used in other countries (on importing the staple), among them Indonesia, which has been successful in its approach in opening up the monopoly on rice,” he told reporters here yesterday.
Salahuddin said the operations of the National Farmers’ Organisation of Malaysia (Nafas) had also been temporarily suspended effective the beginning of this month.
He said the suspension order under Section 20(1) of Act 109 was issued by the Registrar of Farmers’ Organisations following an audit on Nafas’ management that was submitted to the ministry on March 26.
Based on the report, Nafas, he said, was found to be facing serious management problems, especially in the aspects of competency, responsibility and transparency in its leadership and management.
“The suspension was done to enable an investigation to be carried out relating to the abuse of power and leakages involving its board of directors and management,” he said.
Salahuddin said the suspension, likely to last three months, would not impact the 770-odd staff, except that the powers of the board in making management and financial decisions had been curtailed.
During the suspension, powers to run Nafas’ affairs will be vested in the director-general of the Farmers’ Organisations Authority as provided for under Section 23 of Act 109, he said.
He said for now, the ministry was looking into the management aspects and if necessary, the police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission would be roped in.
On another matter, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced the list of 22 price-controlled items for Hari Raya, which will take effect from tomorrow to June 22.
The items include live chicken, eggs, local and imported beef, red chillies, tomatoes, imported round cabbages and grated coconut. Traders are required to use the special pink-coloured price tags. — Bernama
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