“Now, that’s big talk coming from a someone who, on the 25th of June 2005, expressed shock and disbelief when suspended from UMNO after being found guilty on seven counts of money politics and vote buying”
THE THIRD FORCE
Tan Sri Isa Abdul Samad has been all the news the past two days. The chairman of Felda Global Ventures Holdings Berhad (FGV) courted controversy last Tuesday when he suspended the group’s president and CEO, Dato’ Zakaria Arshad.
According to reports, Isa had accused Zakaria of violating the company’s policy by allowing a long-time customer of the group – an Afghan company named Safitex – to purchase palm oil products without the safeguard of a letter of credit. The purchase was said to have been made through one of the group’s many subsidiaries, Delima Oil Products Sdn Bhd.
Just so that you know, Zakaria is no stranger to Delima, having served on the firm’s board as CEO between the years 2010 and 2013. While there, he instituted strategic reforms that brought about a significant reduction in operational costs for the company. More importantly, he is well accustomed with the Delima culture – so to speak – and the way the company conducts business with its clientele.
As the story goes, sometime in September 2016, the FGV concern deployed a shipment of palm oil products to Safitex on terms that were not supported by a letter of credit. I am made to understand that Isa instructed Zakaria to oversee Delima’s operations between the months of April and December that year, though the basis for this directive was not made clear to me. What is clear is that Safitex has yet to fulfil its obligations to Delima for the said shipment.
But we’re talking about Safitex here, a company in business with Felda for 20 years to the tune of RM230 million and one with above-par credit ratings. According to an editorial featured by Malaysia Today (READ HERE), the delay in payment wasn’t deliberate and had to do with the firm’s owner being stranded in Afghanistan. However, for some unknown reason, Isa doesn’t seem to buy all that and pinned the blame for the delay squarely on Zakaria.
That came across to me as highly irregular, considering that Isa himself shares warm ties with the owner of the Afghan company. Unless, of course, the FGV chairman suspects that Zakaria colluded with people in Felda and Safitex to siphon funds from FGV. A check by my team revealed that it is precisely what Isa thinks has happened.
As a matter of fact, Isa convinced two of his aides that Zakaria used shell companies as fronts to negotiate back door deals with Felda’s existing clientele. While this has never been made public, it was the basis to the overwhelming support Isa received from board members when deciding on Zakaria’s fate.
Anyway, Zakaria, who denied the accusations hurled against him, clarified that the payment method used by Delima in its dealings with Safitex was approved and accepted not by him, but by the previous CEO of the Felda group. Isa, however, convinced his aides that Zakaria would ride on that excuse to free himself of blame in the event Safitex defaults its obligations permanently.
Interesting, is it not?
What makes it all the more interesting is the fact that Isa was present at a signing ceremony that saw Safitex being granted credit facilities by Delima. The ceremony, which took place on the 17th of October 2016, came five months and fifteen days before Zakaria was appointed the group’s CEO. So, tell me, folks, if indeed the issue is about Safitex delaying payments, why is Isa still the group chairman, and why is Zakaria roughing it out in the rain?
It almost appears as if Zakaria was ‘executed’ in a drumhead trial. 200 years ago, military officials would upend a drum on the battlefield, sit at it and dispense summary judgement. Decisions were quick, punishments severe and appeals, denied. Those who came to a drumhead were doomed.
Not only does Isa defy logic, he defies the very principles of corporate governance he claims to be ‘protecting’. Does he not know that companies customarily grant special terms and leeway to customers with long-standing histories and good credit ratings? Did it not occur to him that the boardroom tussle would send the group’s stock into a tailspin?
But never mind all that.
In a press conference held at Menara Felda, Kuala Lumpur, Isa told reporters that Zakaria’s suspension was to facilitate a discovery into alleged irregularities that pertained the sale of palm oil products to Safitex. According to him, the practice of relieving someone from his (or her) duties to facilitate an investigation was quite the norm and nothing to shout about.
Now, that’s big talk coming from a someone who, on the 25th of June 2005, expressed shock and disbelief when suspended from UMNO after being found guilty of money politics and vote buying (charges listed below). Do note that Isa was delivered the suspension notice only after the party’s disciplinary board decided on his case, not before.
In other words, UMNO permitted him the dignity of remaining the party’s vice-president pending a discovery into something as serious as corruption. But then, did Isa permit Zakaria the dignity of retaining his position as FGV CEO pending a discovery into a charge far less severe than corruption?
Tell me, does this Isa fellow not have a strand of moral fiber left in his body?
ISA’S CORRUPTION CHARGES
Isa was suspended for three years from June 24, 2005 on seven charges. The charges pertained instances of money politics and vote-buying which the Umno Disciplinary Board preferred against him. They were:
For allowing his political secretary, Mohd Salim Sharif, to pay RM300 to each delegate from the Telok Kemang division to the Umno General Assembly on or about September 2004
For allowing his agents to pay various amounts of money to delegates from the Cameron Highlands, Kuala Lipis and Bentong divisons to the Umno General Assembly on September 11
For allowing his agents to pay RM1,000 each to delegates to the Umno General Assembly at the Crown Princess Hotel at 11 pm on September 22 and the morning of September 23
For permitting his agents to pay RM1,000 each to delegates to the Umno General Assembly at or about 1am on Sep 23 at the Pan Pacific Hotel, Kuala Lumpur
For allowing his agents to pay various sums of money to Sabah delegates to the Umno General Assembly about 1 am on Sep 23 at the Legend Hotel, Kuala Lumpur
For allowing his agents to pay RM300 to Sabah Umno delegates at the Tanjung Aru Golf Club and the ‘Kandarah” Court, both of which are in Sabah in early September
For allowing his agents to pay RM300 to Kedah Umno delegates at Holiday Villa Hotel, Alor Star and Kelab Cinta Sayang, Sungai Petani around two to three weeks before the 2004 Umno General Assembly.