Five years after Najib appointed Isa Samad, as the FELDA chairman, Isa was made a fellow of Pembroke College, at The University of Cambridge. This was in January 2016.
Obviously, corruption pays, and having friends in high places help.
Is Cambridge University not concerned about the reputation of Isa Samad? How could they insult Malaysians and make him a fellow?
Do you recall that Isa was suspended for six years from June 24, 2005, for money politics in the 2004 Umno-Baru elections.
Perhaps, Najib surrounds himself with tainted people, to make him look cleaner than clean, and whiter than white.
In the MACC investigation into Isa’s son’s purchase of a luxury hotel in Bayswater, in March 2015, when Park City Hotel was renamed Grand Plaza Hotel, the MACC, as to be expected, found nothing wrong. This is a bit like saying there are no irregularities in 1MDB. Put it another way, the deaths in police custody are not from torture; the men “fell” whilst using the toilet.
FELDA straying from its core origins
What would Abdul Razak Hussein, Malaysia’s second prime-minister and the man who is often credited with initiating the Federal Land Development Agency (FELDA), think about the scandals rocking it, if he were alive today?
What started off as a credible plan, to resettle the rural poor, so farmers could grow cash crops, has now diversified into activities which are far removed from its core agriculture origins. Through its subsidiary, Federal Global Ventures (FGV), FELDA has stakes in mining, banks and hotels.
Property was acquired in London, and turned into hotels and student apartments. Will FELDA settlers, who visit London, be able to stay in these hotels and apartments, and obtain accommodation at a discounted rate?
Why weren’t the millions of ringgits ploughed back into finding cures for fungal strains which affect palm oil trees? Why wasn’t the money used to improve palm oil yields? If we are not careful, Indonesia will soon overtake us in global oil palm production, if they have not already.
Shuffling top posts among former politicians
If there is one thing Malaysian leaders are good at, it is in playing musical chairs.
We recycle former senior Umno-Baru politicians and officials, into top GLC posts, instead of injecting younger, more dynamic talent, into these important roles. We have enough capable people, with the necessary skills and expertise, so why should we continue to mix politics with business?
Ever since his appointment as FELDA chairman, in 2011, Isa Samad has constantly courted controversy. When his term of office ended in FELDA, he retained his post at FGV, but now, with the ongoing scandal, Isa “volunteered” to leave FGV. He was then made the new chairman of the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD).
Retaining these old political hands may make good political sense, but for the settlers and the rakyat, who will be forced to bail-out these GLCs, when things go wrong, it does not make good economic sense.
Under Isa’s leadership losses were sustained at FGV and FELDA. Why is he allowed to wreak more havoc, in SPAD?
Najib once praised Isa for his leadership and for being able to communicate with the kampung folk. Good rural networking skills does not make him a brilliant chairman.
The losses sustained by both FELDA and FGV are testament to that, but Isa was retained, nevertheless. In the civilised world, non-performing chairmen are sacked, at the first sign of incompetence. They would not be recycled into other roles.
What is Isa’s hold over Najib?
Guilty of money politics and suspended from Umno-Baru
Najib should have taken the cue from the jitters in the stock market, caused by Isa’s appointment. Even former PM, Mahathir Mohamad, had criticised Isa for bringing Umno-Baru into disrepute, when Isa was found guilty of money-politics. Najib dismised the allegations linking Isa’s appointment with the jitters.
At the time, even the Maybank Investment chief executive officer, Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, said, “There have been many GLCs that have ex-politicians appointed as chairmen, but FELDA is a rare case, where the market is concerned with such an appointment. It sends the wrong signals.”
The late Dr Zainal Aznam Mohd Yusof, who played major roles in the Second, Fourth and Fifth Malaysia Plans, and was a National Economic Advisory Council member, said that Isa’s track record of graft tarnished FELDA’s solid reputation. He said that real reform could only be reached when there was a blanket ban on the appointment of politicians to head GLCs. Suggesting that no politicians should be appointed, no matter which political divide they were from, he added, “Power corrupts, so the basic assumption is that (politicians) are stigmatised as corrupt.”
SPAD will soon oversee the RM55 billion East Coast Rail Line project, the KL-Singapore High-Speed Rail (RM60 billion), MRT Line (RM28 billion) and MRT Circle Line (RM20 billion). The appointment of Isa into SPAD is rather risky, especially as his track record is abysmal.