These past few days have seen a flurry of news on Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV). It started when four of its top executives including FGV group president/chief executive officer Datuk Zakaria Arshad were forced to go on leave by FGV Chairperson Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad while investigations are conducted concerning irregularities in the dealings between Delima Oil Products (DOP) Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of FGV and Dubai-based Safitex. Datuk Zakaria, however, refused to step down asserting that the previous management had approved the dealings between DOP and Safitex.
Since then the situation has escalated into a war of words between the two men engrossing the entire country. Undeterred Datuk Zakaria has urged the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to investigate the allegations of financial discrepancies in FGV and those involved. Tan Sri Isa has welcomed the move stating that there is nothing to hide. Datuk Zakaria also issued an ultimatum to the Board of Directors – to choose between him or Tan Sri Isa. By all indications the boardroom tussle appears set to prolong, which prompted the government to interfere. Consequently, former minister and Pemandu chief executive officer Datuk Seri Idris Jala was appointed as an independent party to troubleshoot the FGV issue.
Just last month Malaysia celebrated 100 years of the palm oil industry. It has been the bedrock of Malaysia’s economy, socio-development and political stability. At the forefront is the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA), considered by some observers as one of the most successful land settlement organizations in the world. FGV is supposed to be an extension of this success. The turmoil that has descended upon the global agricultural and agri-commodities company is unfortunate to say the least.
Once again the world is watching as another notable Malaysian company is engulfed in a financial scandal. Likewise at the heart of the FGV issue is a matter of good governance and accountability. While previously it was flushed with a cash pile of more than RM5 billion after public listing, the funds are now no longer available. As investigations are underway, it is imperative that the MACC is allowed to carry out its duty independently without any political interference. At this juncture not only is the ruling party’s future at stake but most importantly the livelihoods of those who tirelessly toil the land.