IT has been acknowledged internationally as the world’s most successful land agency.
The setting up of Felda was one of the most important developments in Malaysia’s modern history, and the icon for the government’s rural development agenda.
It was formed in 1956 under the stewardship of then prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein.
The agency’s policy statement in 1956 bannered: “No need to be poor.”
In 1957, the first scheme was to plant rubber, and in 1961, the first oil palm scheme was launched.
In opening land and managing settlers, Felda was guided by a basic principle: give opportunities to the landless.
Veteran lawmaker Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad takes over as chairman of Felda at a critical time — when it needs a stronger leadership to improve the wellbeing of Felda settlers and put the agency on a firmer footing.
The move to split the chairmanship of Lembaga Felda, the government agency, and Felda’s business, is lauded.
Felda and Felda Asset Holdings Bhd have a combined 33.6 per cent stake in Felda Global Ventures (FGV), the listed arm of Felda.
Shahrir will have oversight of FGV, given that Felda is the single biggest shareholder in the company.
As a listed firm, investors expect greater corporate governance and compliance on the part of the FGV board under Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad.
At Felda proper, Shahrir and his new board will have to scrutinise the recent spate of deals made by Isa and his management.
Shahrir must also woo young, talented and brilliant people to take Felda to a higher level, and in the process, win the confidence of the country’s young brains.
Settlers around the country expect Shahrir to bring change to make Felda a land agency that we can all be proud of.
The legacy of the late Tun Razak needs to be safeguarded.