Mahathir’s previous policy of allowing so-called “minimal and manageable” corruption among the warlords of UMNO, the dominant political party he once led, has proven more damaging than anticipated. The tentacles of corruption have not only spread deep into government and private institutions, but also within government agencies founded to protect the poor Malay community.
Get real, Mahathir Mohamad was partly responsible for the creation of crooks like former Prime Minister Najib Razak. After all, it was Mahathir, who single-handedly picked Najib as the next prime minister. Under Najib regime, corruption was practised on an industrial scale, so much so he was not worried about RM2.6 billion being discovered in his private bank accounts.
The discovery of RM1 trillion in foreign debts after the new Pakatan Harapan government took over was just the tip of the story. It doesn’t matter if Najib and his corrupt minions disagreed with the figures. Regardless whether it was RM1 trillion or RM741 billion due to disagreement on definitions of foreign debts, the fact remains that Malaysia has to pay based on RM1 trillion of debts.
The new government has serviced close to RM9 billion (between April 2017 and May 2019) in interest just for the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) debt alone – money that could otherwise be used for schools and healthcare. And we have yet to scratch the surface of 1MDB debts, which skyrocketed to RM50.75 billion as at Oct 30, 2019.
But 1MDB was just one of many debts and scandals created by the despicable Najib Razak. To the horror of the new government, taxpayers’ money to the tune of RM6.3 billion had to be spent to bail out FELDA (Federal Land Development Authority). A whopping RM17.8 billion was also spent on a restructuring plan to rescue Lembaga Tabung Haji (Hajj Pilgrims’ Fund).
In total, RM24.1 billion went up in the smoke. Like American farmers who could make or break Donald Trump for his second term of presidency, the Felda settlers are the vital vote bank for Malay political parties in the country. Najib lost his shirt and pants in the May 2018 General Election largely because 110,000 “unhappy” Malay Felda settlers went against his corrupt government.
However, the Felda settlers – either illiterate or ignorant – had no idea the depth of corruption, mismanagement and incompetence of the previous Barisan Nasional coalition government. And they had no idea what a huge crocodile Mohd Isa Samad was, an extremely corrupt UMNO warlord who had served under both Mahathir and Najib administrations.
The 2018 Auditor-General’s report revealed today (Dec 2) that the Felda has built only 1,498 houses when they were supposed to build 20,000 houses under a project called the Felda New Generation Housing Project (PGBF). But that was not the best part. The jaw-dropping part was that despite having spent 87% of the RM870 million allocations, they failed to build the houses.
In essence, despite the project period of 5 years from 2013 to 2017, only about 7% of the 20,000 houses were built. Even then, out of the 1,498 houses built, only 792 units have been delivered, leaving the balance 706 still undelivered. That means only 4% of the 20,000 houses have been delivered to Felda settlers, a slap in the face of the Malays who had voted for Barisan Nasional for decades.
That also means RM757.86 million had been spent to build 1,498 houses – translating to RM505,914 per house. A half a million Ringgit house is definitely a luxury mansion or bungalow for some rural Felda settlers. The problem is they did not get the expensive house, but rather a unit of less than RM50,000, thanks to “leakages” under the previous regime.
Based on the allocations of RM870 million to build 20,000 houses for Felda settlers, a unit of the house would be about RM43,500. Hence, the 1,498 houses built would cost about RM65 million – translating to RM692 million missing in the project. The audit report also reveals that the construction company for the PGBF project was appointed via a direct negotiation without the approval of the Ministry of Finance.
Isa Samad, formerly Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar (Chief Minister) for 22 years from 1982 to 2004, was appointed chairman of the Felda effective 1 January 2011 by the Prime Minister’s Office of Najib Razak. He was only replaced by Shahrir Abdul Samad on January 2017 after Felda suffered financial losses for years. Isa currently faces a charge of criminal breach of trust (CBT) and nine counts of receiving graft.
Even after Najib replaced Isa as the chairman of Felda, the crook was allowed to remain as chairman of FGV (Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd). And it’s not hard to understand why the crooks protect each other. Isa Samad was involved in what Felda settler cried as a “cheating” deal by Indonesian Eagle High Plantations, a company linked to Rajawali Group.
Eagle High Plantations, a subsidiary of Rajawali Group, is owned by Indonesian conglomerate Peter Sondakh, a close friend of Najib Razak. When Razak lost the 2018 general election and feared of being arrested over the 1MDB graft-case, billionaire Sondakh reportedly had sent his private jet to Malaysia to help the former prime minister flee the country.
Under Najib’s instruction, Felda under the leadership of Isa Samad agreed to purchase a 37% stake in Eagle High Plantations at a price that was inflated by more than 340%. Felda bought the stake for US$505 million when the actual value was worth only US$114 million. In the process, Felda took a loan from the finance ministry, which PM and Finance Minister Najib gladly approved.
As a result, Felda suffered RM1.576 billion loss in 2017 alone. To make matters worse, the Eagle High Plantations had debts of US$547.4 million in 2014 and liabilities of US$676.9 million in 2016. Yes, not only Najib and Isa had cheated the gullible Malay Felda settlers of their money by bailing out his Indonesian friend’s company, the crooks had also cheated their houses.
Besides saddling Felda with debts of billions of Ringgit through the purchase of Eagle High Plantations, Isa Samad, as the chairman in the period between 2013 and 2017, knew about the RM870 million allocations to build 20,000 for poor Felda settlers. But after spending RM757 million, only 792 units have been delivered. A whopping RM692 million had gone missing!
Last month, abandoned housing projects under the Felda New Generation Housing (PGBF) was given a shot in the arm with a new allocation of RM250 million. In March this year, the Mahathir government said Felda will require an injection of RM711 million to fully complete the project. This means the project cost will be more than double. The UMNO-Malay had cheated the Malay Felda settlers.