KUALA LUMPUR, 18 Nov: The importance of hundreds of thousands of rice farmers were betrayed following the acquisition of Padiberas Nasional Berhad (BERNAS) by Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhrary.
Opposition Leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, said that the fate of 173,000 Malay farmers across the country is now clearly threatened because the federal government allegedly wants to enrich the millionaire.
“We are talking about one man called Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar or 173,000 paddy farmers, 95 percent of whom are Malays or Bumiputeras, and according to the framework of the Farmers Organisation, this number has increased to 240,000 farmers.
“Their importance has been betrayed by the central government, which pawned their interests and handed it (BERNAS) to Syed Mokhtar, who recorded a profit of over RM800 million according to projections made by Maybank Investment,” he said at the debate session in the Dewan Rakyat today.
Anwar, who is also the Member of Parliament for Permatang Pauh, said that 45 percent of the stake in BERNAS, which used to be owned by farmers and employees of the company, is now dominated by Syed Mokhtar.
In 1995, the conditions imposed on BERNAS shareholders is that 10 percent of the shares are to be given to the National Farmers’ Association (NAFAS) and the National Fishermen’s Association (NEKMAT), while five percent was to go to the Kemubu Agricultural Development Authority (KADA), the Young Agricultural Development Authority (MADA) and the company’s staff.
Anwar said that policy of the privatisation announced by the central government to make the industry more efficient has clearly strayed from its original goal.