Tabling of Felda white paper postponed on AGC’s advice

Cabinet has agreed that the tabling of the white paper be postponed to the next parliamentary session

By P PREM KUMAR & ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

The federal government has postponed the tabling of Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) white paper following an advice from the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC).

The white paper was scheduled to be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday, meant to provide an in-depth account of the crisis surrounding Felda and recommendations for a sustainable recovery for the government agency.

Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali (picture) said the ministry had been working tirelessly to meet the deadline on Dec 10.

“The ministry has been advised by the AGC to reconsider the proposed tabling of the white paper on Dec 10.

“AGC is of the view that certain legal issues need to be resolved before the white paper can be tabled in Parliament,” he said in a statement on the same day.

To ensure the integrity of the Felda white paper, Azmin said the Cabinet has agreed that the tabling of the white paper be postponed to the next parliamentary session.

The minister previously said the white paper would contain serious revelations about Felda, including several cases that were currently being investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

“I’ve seen the first draft, but the ministry is now looking into it. Some of the issues are being investigated by the MACC, so we are not privy to the details and we are not supposed to encroach into the matter.

“It certainly includes some properties and assets that were bought at a high premium. It was much higher than the market price, so these are  some of the issues (that will be highlighted).

“Even if we decide to monetise these assets, we will not be able to get the full value of those assets, which is our concern now. Let the government present the white paper first and we will then make some recommendations on ways to move forward,” he said.

In recent years, the revelation of Felda’s involvement in several real estate deals has put the agency in a bad light. This includes the purchases of hotels in London, UK, and Kuching at prices above the prevalent market values and dubious transfer of several plots of land along Jalan Semarak (Kuala Lumpur) in 2015 without the knowledge of Felda’s board of directors.

The MACC has started investigations into Felda’s 2014 purchase of the Merdeka Palace hotel in Kuching, Sarawak. The hotel was bought by Felda subsidiary, Felda Investment Corp Sdn Bhd, for RM160 million, nearly double its market value.

Azmin told The Malaysian Reserve last month that Felda’s management board was also evaluating several proposals to restructure its listed arm, FGV Holdings Bhd.

He hinted that Felda will not be able to rely on government guarantees to raise funds anytime soon because the government is not in a position to grant more guarantees.