Anwar: Temporary Delisting of Bernas, Betrayal to Farmers and Fishermen

The statement by the Minister of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries, Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob (BERNAMA, 26 November 2013), that the delisting of BERNAS is temporary for the purpose of restructuring, and the awarding of 5% of shares to the National Farmer’s Organisation (NAFAS) and 5% to the National Fishermen’s Association (NEKMAT) after re-listing has raised more questions that need to be clarified.

It should be noted that Dato’ Ismail had previously made a statement that the move to re-purchase raw sugar through a long-term contract in January 2012 for a period of three years at the price of USD 0.26/lb is “a smart move made by the government”, where after signing the contract the price of raw sugar plummeted to USD 0.17/lb until now.

The result of his ‘wisdom’ was that the government had to then eliminate sugar subsidies resulting in the people having to bear this high price of sugar until 2014.

Does this restructuring simply mean the dividing of BERNAS shares between government cronies such as the Batu Bara Resources Corporation Sdn Bhd, which currently holds 22 million shares worth nearly RM82 million?

The government, as the holder of the ‘golden share’ in BERNAS should ensure that the BERNAS restructuring programme is carried out properly because this is a strategic industry in the country which will be detrimental to the people if it is not fine-tuned.

So far, there is still no firm assurance by the government that the shares held by NAFAS and NEKMAT will not be affected by this restructuring.

If truly the shared held by NAFAS and NEKMAT will be increased to %, how will they finance the purchase of these shares (estimated to be worth RM0 million) without additional financial burden?

The government also needs to explain how it can be satisfied with the additional shares which are only worth only RM50 million for NAFAS and NEKMAT, in which case their original stake of 10% each maintained since the establishment of BERNAS (through continuous monitoring from the government), at least RM174 more can be distributed to these farmers and fishermen.

How about how the government allows Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar to control BERNAS through the shares held by him amounting to RM1,452 million (at RM3.70 per share)? RM1,42 million given to an individual while only RM174 million is divided by 170,000 rice farmers.

Although NAFAS and NEKMAT have been promised a slightly higher shareholding in the re-listing later on, Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar and other minority shareholders who have links with the Barisan Nasional government will receive a larger portion from the restructuring.

The interests of farmers and fishermen are clearly neglected by the government, while the greed of individuals close to the government continue to be prioritised.

This is the betrayal by the government which should be protecting the interests of farmers who toil to ensure that the country’s rice supply is guaranteed. “Harapkan pagar, pagar makan padi” (Depended on the fence, yet the fence ate the paddy).

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim
Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader

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