Thousands of plantation settlers, dressed in eye-catching orange T-shirts, flooded the city a few days ago and blocked off part of Jalan Duta as they marched to express their unhappiness over the government’s listing of Felda Gloval Ventures Holding (FGVH) last month.
The marchers, estimated to be 2,000-strong and growing, are part of an umbrella group called Gerakan Selamatkan Felda, which includes various non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
The movement was recently formed by those who believe the government market listing will short-change some 112,000 Felda settlers nationwide, a group that is seen to be an important vote bank for the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.
Heading the marchers this afternoon was PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu.
In rows that spread to cover the width of the road, the protestors marched along chanting, “Bebas peneroka (Free the settlers)”, “Pecat Isa Samad (Sack Isa Samad)”, and “Hancur Najib (Crush Najib)”.
Tan Sri Isa Samad is the chairman of the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda).
They also carried banners that read, “Jangan gadai aset Felda kepada pelabur asing. Hentikan penyenaraian FGVHB! Selamatkan Felda! Selamatkan Malaysia! (Don’t pawn Felda’s assets to foreign investors. Stop FGVHB’s listing! Save Felda! Save Malaysia!”
Today’s march will culminate with the delivery of a memorandum to a palace official seeking for the intervention of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
The mostly Malay-Muslim crowd pushed off from the Jalan Duta Court Complex at about 2pm today, after saying their prayers at the Federal Territory mosque across the road.
The protest march, which resulted in the closure of several roads into the city, stayed peaceful, with PAS’s Unit Amal (volunteer unit), in their signature maroon-coloured T-shirts, seen helping the police with crowd control.
The crowd dispersed peacefully at 4pm as promised to the police.
However, the police noted that some of the rally-goers had brought along their underage children, which is not allowed under a new law allowing public assemblies enforced in April this year.
ACP Zakaria Pagan, of the Sentul police, told reporters it was too early to comment if the authorities would take any punitive action against the organisers or the parents.
“We take note of that. It’s against (the) Peaceful Assembly Act. We will consider,” Zakaria replied when asked his view on the presence of children in today’s rally.
The police were reported to have advised rally-goers against bringing minors or weapons prior to the assembly.
Zakaria said the police were there “not just to ensure the safety of participants, but also road users”, confirming that only a part of Jalan Dutamas 1 was closed for the two-hour-long rally.
The rally took place despite the hitherto successful showing by FGVH on Bursa Malaysia.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had also given his assurance that the listing would yield profits, and earlier announced a RM1.69 billion “windfall” for all settlers throughout the country ahead of the FGVH listing.
The shares of FGVH, the world’s second largest initial public offering (IPO) this year, reportedly continued to remain above its IPO price more than two weeks after its listing.
FGVH had soared 20 per cent above its debut price of RM5.30 when it listed on June 28.
Brokers have said, however, that FGVH was likely benefiting from the interest of large institutional funds who expect the plantation giant to become a component of the benchmark FBM KLCI index, along with restrictions against cornerstone buyers disposing of their lots within six months of the listing.
No doubt listing of any company will bring in more capital for expansion, but at whose expense? Felda settlers who have been toiling the land for generation will only enjoy chicken-feed while Umno bigwigs, cronies and "foreign investors" will get the lion's share. The whole listing exercise have effectively diluted the FELDA settler's influence to their plantations, and is allowing the disproportionate distribution of any future profits to the Umno bigwigs, cronies and "foreign investors".
If the 51% controlling stake that the FELDA settler co-op holds in the plantations have any bearing, the settlers should be getting at least equal or more share in FGVH, or if the government is adamant and confident of the "returns" on listing FELDA, they should be diluting their 49% stake for FGVH, not the entirety of 100%. FELDA was profitable prior to FGVH, and judging by the FGVH prospectus, I think at best, FGVH was rushed and has no solid plan to really boost the plantations' earnings vs. when FELDA was on its own. What's more, public money (from the institutional investors) is likely being used to prop up the current good showing of the FGVH, therefore both the public and the settler's hard earned finances are being exposed to the potentially huge risk of a botched FGVH listing.
It is because FELDA do not have the influence to their plantations anymore, but instead sold almost all the good ones to FGVH for the sake of the biggest listing to boost Najib's transformation programme. Although it is good at the beginning, the value of the shares can later be revalued by the market forces, and could settle down below than RM3 per share. IF this happened, then the value of the overall original Felda plantations assets could be reduced and open to market scrutiny.
Dont play play with market force. If Malaysian economy suddenly collapse due to corruption and high deficits, then all the settlers assets can go into the "longkang" as the capitalists do not have mercy except only look for monetary gains and almost all the time greedy!