Questions are being raised on Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s possible connection to Felda’s purchase of Indonesian firm PT Eagle High Plantations (EHP) in the Malay heartlands.
Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) deputy president Mukhriz Mahathir zoomed in on Najib’s alleged friendship with Indonesian tycoon Peter Sondakh – the chairperson of the Rajawali Group which owned a controlling stake in EHP.
“He (Sondakh) is very close to Najib. This is the problem when there are personal issues involved in business.
“I suspect in the EHP case, the purpose is not only to profit from Felda,” Mukhriz told a ceramah in Felda Jengka, Pahang last night.
A write-up on Sondakh by The Star in June 2015 said the business magnate became close friends with Najib after Rajawali and the Finance Ministry collaborated on the St Regis Hotel in Langkawi.
Felda in January had signed a deal to purchase a 37 percent stake in EHP from Rajawali for US$505.4 million (RM2.26 billion). Critics of the deal said the sale price far exceeds the shares’ market value.
Najib had previously been accused of receiving 1MDB money in his personal accounts to fund BN’s 2013 general election campaign.
Najib had denied the money came from 1MDB, saying it was instead a donation from a member of the Saudi royal family.
Mukhriz however likened this to a neighbour stealing fish from a pond and claiming that an Arab man gave it to him.
The former Kedah menteri besar’s move to question the EHP purchase comes as the opposition intensifies effort to win support from Felda settlers, who collectively could influence over a quarter of seats in the Parliament.
His Bersatu party, together with the Felda Settlers’ Children’s Association (Anak), are embarking on a roadshow, dubbed the Jelajah Semarak Kasih Felda (Love Felda Tour).
Felda settlements have long been a vote bank for BN but recent controversies surrounding the agency may affect this.
Pahang state exco member Shahaniza Shamsuddin had warned Umno during its annual assembly last year that the party risks losing Felda votes if the government does not address their woes.
About 500 people attended the Bersatu-Anak ceramah, which was originally supposed to feature former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Malaysiakini has contacted Felda for its response to Mukhriz’s claims.
A live band, lucky draw and dinner
Meanwhile, about 300m away, Felda organised a hang-out session featuring a live band, a lucky draw and dinner.
Among the lucky draw prizes were Samsung smartphones and Felda football club jerseys.
A Rela officer who declined to be named said tickets for tonight’s football match between Felda and Kedah in Jengka were handed out at the event. A slightly bigger crowd, about 600 people, attended the Felda event.
Besides EHP, Mukhriz also defended his father Mahathir’s alleged U-turn on the Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M).
“There are many differences between Mahathir’s suggestion for BR1M and what Najib is implementing,” he said.
He said the former premier wants BR1M to be given only to the needy, and that there should be no politics behind the disbursement of cash.
In comparison, he claimed Umno division leaders were asking recipients to vote for them in exchange for the aid.
Mahathir had repeatedly accused the BN government of using BR1M to bribe the electorate. However, at the Bersatu launch in January, he indicated that he is open to maintaining the programme if the opposition, along with his party, were to come to power.
Mahathir, who is Bersatu chairperson, said BR1M will be maintained if the policy is found to be necessary but it should not be use to fish for votes.
Najib has subsequently accused the nonagenarian of doing a U-turn on the issue.