Sunday, June 27, 2010
Tan insists Felda in trouble, calls Umno man an ‘idiot’
By Clara Chooi
June 25, 2010 Malaysian Insider
KUALA LUMPUR, June 25 – Former Land and Co-Operative Development deputy minister Datuk Dr Tan Kee Kwong today brushed off Felda's defamation suit threat, and called the Umno deputy minister who announced the suit “an idiot.”
Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Ahmad Maslan told a press conference this afternoon that Felda would be filing a defamation suit to the tune of hundreds of millions of ringgit against all those who were involved in the allegation claiming Felda was bankrupt.
Several PKR leaders, including Tan (picture), Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim as well as Suara Keadilan, its owners and chief editor, a PAS MP and several reporters are expected to be named in the suit, set to be filed soon.
Tan, who is now with the PKR after leaving Gerakan, however remained nonchalant and maintained that 100 per cent of Felda settlers were in agreement with him.
“Think very carefully about whatever that idiot (Ahmad) is saying... you can call him that, an idiot. You may not be an expert in oil palm but look at what happened in the figures.
“How can, when the authority had cash of about RM4.5 billion and no borrowings before (Prime Minister Datuk Seri) Najib (Razak) took over, how can any company mess up with such a healthy balance sheet?
“God only knows,” he told The Malaysian Insider today.
He said that with such a robust financial standing, the land development authority should not witness a depleting cash reserve.
“When oil palm companies are now registering profits, your cash reserves are going down,” he pointed out.
He told Ahmad not to continue “talking nonsense” and advised Felda to stick to its core business.
“Stick to your core business. Do not rip the Felda settlers off. Stop talking nonsense. Do oil palm, there is plenty of money in this business.
“Why do you need to invest in the US? What technology does the US have in oil palm?
“You are supposed to be providing land for the landless and you are dealing with what we call black, edible oil... it is like black gold,” he said.
He pointed out that crude palm oil (CPO) prices over the past few years had been very high and this should help Felda's cash reserve grow.
“How can you mess up like this, especially when other companies have been profiting?” he said.
When Tan recently raised the issue of Felda's depleting cash reserve, Ahmad had in Parliament admitted that the authority was facing a decline in its cash pile.
In his press conference today, the deputy minister reiterated that while it was true that Felda's cash reserves had declined RM2.73 billion from RM4.08 billion in 2004 to RM1.35 billion in 2009, its current and fixed assets had risen as much as RM6.2 billion from RM9.17 billion in 2004 to RM15.37 billion in 2009.
Ahmad also pointed out that at present, Felda, the world's largest plantation operator, had net assets worth RM12.2 billion and had investments around the world in countries like Indonesia, South Africa, China, Turkey, US, Canada, Pakistan, Australia, Thailand, France, India and Saudi Arabia.
“What assets? It is ok. Let them prove this. I will stick to what I have said,” Tan insisted, sounding increasingly frustrated.
When contacted, Zaid brushed off the prospect of being sued and defended himself by saying he had never called Felda “bankrupt.”
“Was Felda embarrassed with what we said? We will have to see the truth,” he said.
He pointed out that at least now, the government was finally revealing the details of Felda's financial situation.
“At least all this caused them to give out this information. It is good because prior to this, no one knew what was happening in felda, about its overseas investments, about its returns,” he said.