“Heads will roll”. Those were Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad’s exact words days after being named the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) chairman early this year.
He had kept to his words. Less than two weeks into his job, the seasoned politician had asked Felda Investment Corp Sdn Bhd’s (FIC) board members to resign, citing leakages and unacceptable profit returns.
But Shahrir who also said “there will be ‘blood in the streets’” when he takes the rein at Felda, now faces an even more daunting task.
Daily events at Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGVH) have snowballed from a management tussle into a crisis and the axe is expected to fall for any resolution to take effect.
Never in the history of a government-linked company, a chief executive had openly challenged the government to choose between him and the company’s appointed chairman.
The tussle between FGVH chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad, and the suspended president cum CEO Datuk Zakaria Arshad had turned from a corporate disagreement into an embarrassing public spectacle.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak had given the related parties before the first day of Syawal or nine days from today, to resolve the crisis. And the clock is ticking.
Will the resolution include the removal of the former Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar? Or will Shahrir helm both FGVH and Felda? Is there another candidate?
Mohd Isa was appointed FGVH’s non-executive chairman in 2011. He was then Felda’s chairman. His presence seems to fit like a glove. Mohd Isa speaks the language of the ordinary kampung folks. And Felda is about simple rural settlers who live on simple means on the lands given to them decades ago.
Early this year, the government announced that Shahrir had been appointed Felda’s chairman to replace Mohd Isa but the latter will remain as FGVH chairman — a position that is said as part of the “package” for being the head at Felda.
Mohd Isa’s reactions to the changes have been somewhat muted. Talks of him not vacating his room had fanned speculations of a possible resistance.
But what have irked Shahrir more was FGVH board’s uninvolved reaction to his request to place three individuals on the board at the world’s third-largest palm oil company.
Felda had proposed to place two management representatives and a third member to the board of directors. FGVH’s board “silence” is said to have soured ties between Mohd Isa and Shahrir.
While Mohd Isa had defended his position and actions, more calls for changes were being made by stakeholders.
The National Felda Settlers’ Children Association (Anak) — a vocal and strong representation of the Felda settlers’ next generation — had openly blamed Mohd Isa for FGVH’s poor financial and share price performance. Anak yesterday called on the government to replace Mohd Isa with Shahrir.
The association also questioned the effectiveness of Felda’s restructuring led by Shahrir if Mohd Isa remains at the helm at FGVH.
Having witnessed the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission investigation into Felda, Shahrir will also be concerned over the graft buster probe into FGVH.
The question now is whose head will roll to save one of the world’s third-largest palm oil company? We will know in nine days.