Let Johor chart a new future

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Speech in Johor Bharu, March 2018

Now that the 14th General Election is around the corner, it is time for voters to seriously consider who they will support at these polls, if they have not already done so. To the people of Johor I say that unless you break the BN fortress in Johor Bharu, and make it a PH capital, like all the other state capitals, you will not win Johor.

In JB the incumbent MP from UMNO, Shahrir Abdul Samad, must be defeated, and if that happens, the southern Johor parliamentary seats will fall as well. Many people tell me he is very popular and he is a principled man. I am sure he is. He took on Dr Mahathir when he felt his former boss Tun Musa Hitam was “ pushed out” and in a bye-election he won as an independent. He became famous from that day. He won because Johorians admired his gut to defend another Johor leader, whom they had hoped would be the next Prime Minister.

What puzzles me is why was the same principle not applied to Tan Sri Muhyiddin? Where was Shahrir when another Johor national leader and soon to be Prime Minister was sacked by Najib; all because Muhyiddin was against stealing from public coffers. Where was Shahrir when government institutions were mobilized to the hilt to undertake the most extensive cover-up in the history of the country.

Ladies and gentlemen, your MP is now a changed man and no longer deserves your support. There are people who support the PM because they think their livelihood depends on them. There are people who support Najib because they have no clue of whats going on in the world around them. But the worst kind is those who know everything there is to know about the Prime minister and still support him with everything they have. You will have Najib as PM for a long time if people like Shahrir keep winning and getting your support.

Shahrir has enough on his hands. After all, he is the Chairman of a billion Ringgit Felda. After Felda was listed on the stock exchange, billions of ringgit were not accounted for. As Shahrir himself pointed out when he first became Chairman, the listing of Felda Global Ventures Holding Bhd’s shares brought about RM6 billion to Felda. But only RM1.7 billion was paid out to Felda settlers. What happened to the remaining RM4.3 billion? I now want to ask Shahrir: has he found out the answer after one year on the job?

Why did he support Felda Investment Corporation’s purchase of 37 percent of PT Eagle High Plantations in Indonesia for a huge premium of 90 percent of the share price, paying more than RM2.26 billion? No one would pay RM2.26 billion to buy into a company, and yet still only hold a minority interest and have no control over the board of directors. It was not even cheap. If someone tries to sell you a cow at 90 percent above market price, then it’s not a great deal when the seller ultimately reduces the price to 70 percent above the market price. Why was Shahrir willing to allow Felda to act as a government “intermediary” in the purchase, especially when he was not able to tell us how this benefitted Felda?

Shahrir also said that Felda got back land lots valued at RM270 million in Jalan Semarak, Kuala Lumpur. But how much did Felda pay to get back this land? Did Felda get it back for free and how is that possible. Why did Felda part with the land in the first place? What else did Felda get in return for giving this land to businessmen?

The Chairman of Felda must not be a sitting MP because it means he has too many responsibilities. Felda is a huge conglomerate, which is challenging enough to run well, but now there are also so many issues that it must resolve. No one who is chairman of Felda, Member of Parliament, and head of an UMNO division can do a good job. He cannot be fair to either Felda or his constituency.

If you want a wakil rakyat who is able to fight for your rights and try to resolve some of your problems, then you need someone new. I am sure Pakatan will let you know soon who their candidate is, but you must make sure that this new person will not accept the role of chairman of Felda; otherwise, history will repeat itself. Felda needs another competent technocrat who will not take instructions from the top blindly, but who will work full-time to serve the settlers’ interests.

Many of the Malays complained their villages are disappearing fast. Their leases have only a few years left. Some are still waiting for their application for titles which were promised to them in the last 4 general elections but remained empty promises. JB is now a concrete jungle that only the rich can afford. You are not the victims of “responsible development” but of the greed of the Malay leaders you have elected at every election. Your lands are worth billions and they are waiting to send you to a far corner of Johor to live in crowded flats where the rubbish are not collected and the lifts do not work, so they can build more shopping complexes.

If you want your lands back, you must not be afraid to elect a new government. It’s worth a try. The small pieces of lands that belong to your family are not just for you to live on; they represent your culture and identity. If the Malays are not able to keep the small bits of land they have, soon they will have nothing. Your leaders say they are fighting for agama, Raja dan Negara, but so far they have not done the fighting for poor people like you. Wake up and vote PH.

In the present political system, ordinary people will not get their dues because the policies always favour the rich. That’s the only way they can keep making money. They build more condominiums to make more profits and commissions for their supporters. This means they will not build low-cost houses or small shops for traders and shopkeepers. More shopping complexes mean more profit but less space for small retailers.

As the birthplace of UMNO, Johor has always been seen as a party stronghold. That is history that you can be proud of. But it’s time for Johor to create a new history, one that supports a new kind of politics with leaders who are honest and fair to both the rich and the less privileged.

Whenever we say that Najib is selling the country, the BN get very angry and upset. But what do you call all these? The economy of this country will worsen if we continue with the present government because the rich will take away land and keep their money overseas. Only crumbs will be left for the people, who will have to keep selling mee rebus and sup tom yam to survive.

Johor can make history by not allowing itself to be dictated by its political legacy, and instead, lead the charge to demand a system of government that is responsible and willing to be accountable to the people. Johor can show the rest of the country that our leaders can be afraid of the people and not the other way around. The people’s interests must come first, not that of corrupt leaders. Let Johor be a model for the rest of the country, by showing us it is possible for all Malaysians to work together to live in peace and share all that we have.

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