Isa Samad underestimated Najib’s resolve

Isa Samad mistook Najib’s silence as tacit approval. And this is the mistake many people (politicians and heads of GLCs included) make. They think Najib is easily fooled and if he keeps quiet that means you have managed to pull the wool over his eyes. Najib might listen to what you say. But that does not mean he will listen to just what you say. He will check the veracity of your story to see if you are telling the truth. And he has his team of Boffin Boys for that.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

When the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) made the announcement that Idris Jala would be given the task of looking into the Felda Global Ventures Holdings (FGV) ‘crisis’ many were taken by surprise. They did not see that coming and, in fact, regarded it as a brilliant move on the part of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

Idris Jala will bring back the public confidence that has eroded so badly since Mohd Isa Abdul Samad took over as the Felda Chairman in 2011. Take the case of the controversy surrounding Felda’s purchase of PT Eagle High Plantations last year. It became a controversy only because Isa was not able to explain the rational behind that Indonesian investment. Whatever he said the public would not accept mainly because it was a crisis of confidence surrounding Isa himself.

When Shahrir Samad was appointed the new Felda Chairman in January this year, he explained the rational behind Felda’s purchase of PT Eagle High Plantations and the ‘crisis’ ended. Shahrir not only articulated the issue well but the public had confidence in what he says while no one would give what Isa says that same weight. In short, the problem was Isa Samad and now that Idris Jala is working with Shahrir to resolve the FGV matter public confidence has returned.

Shahrir brought back public confidence to Felda

Last week, Isa went to see Najib to inform him about the alleged transgression committed by the company’s President and CEO, Zakaria Arshad. The so-called transgression involves a Dubai-based Afghan company, Safitex, that has an outstanding payment on its account with Delima Oil Products Sdn Bhd (DOP).

Isa told Najib that Safitex was granted credit facilities instead of being made to issue a Letter of Credit on all its purchases, as is the company’s policy. What Isa did not tell Najib is that an agreement had been signed between Safitex and DOP before Zakaria was appointed the CEO of FGV and that Isa himself had been present at this signing ceremony. Isa then lied and told Najib that the auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), had uncovered this transgression, which is not true.

Isa also did not inform Najib that Safitex controls 40% of the Afghan market, which took 20 years to build up. Thus far Safitex has given DOP about a quarter billion Ringgit worth of business. And Isa is prepared to throw all this away with just one throw of the dice because he resents what he views as Shahrir’s ‘infringement’ of his territory and because Zakaria is interacting with Shahrir.

As in the case of Media Prima, Najib just listened to what Isa had to say. He then asked his Boffin Boys to look into the matter and report back to him. That happened in the Media Prima case when the Chairman, Fateh Iskandar, misinformed Najib about what was going on. Najib did his own investigation into the matter and discovered the opposite. So now Fateh is history and his job has been taken over by Ismee Ismail (READ HERE).

After Isa’s briefing, Najib told his Boffin Boys to check out his story and they discovered the opposite to what he told Najib. Isa, however, thought that Najib had bought his story — hook, line and sinker — so he immediately told Zakaria to resign. And when Zakaria refused to do so, Isa brought the matter to the Board and asked the Board to sack him.

Isa mistook Najib’s silence as tacit approval. And this is the mistake many people (politicians and heads of GLCs included) make. They think Najib is easily fooled and if he keeps quiet that means you have managed to pull the wool over his eyes. Najib might listen to what you say. But that does not mean he will listen to just what you say. He will check the veracity of your story to see if you are telling the truth. And he has his team of Boffin Boys for that.

One thing that Najib hates most is people lying to him. To Najib that is a most unforgivable crime. After Najib’s Boffin Boys checked further, it was found that Isa’s story does not add up. Yes, Safitex was granted credit, but that was the agreed arrangement and a contractual obligation on the part of DOP. Yes, Safitex is late in its payment, but there is a reason for that and the reason has been explained. So it is not a simple matter of violation of company’s policy on the part of Zakaria and three others in the FGV management team.

Anyway, this is a case of he-says-she-says. So Najib brought in Idris Jala so that he can get to the bottom of the whole thing and establish who is telling the truth and who is lying. The MACC has also stepped in to determine if any element of corruption exists in FGV. Isa has opened a Pandora’s Box and there is no turning back. Someone is lying, so heads are going to roll just like in the Media Prima episode.

Malaysia Today has already explained why Isa is sore with Zakaria, which you can read here:

Why Isa Samad wants to get rid of Zakaria Arshad 

Zakaria Arshad is an obstacle to Isa Samad

Shahrir Samad: Isa Samad’s real target 

And now the shit has hit the fan. What should have been a non-event is now a national issue. This is a fight to the death and only one person walks away from such a fight. So either Isa or Zakaria is a dead man walking. And in about two weeks or so we shall know who is going to celebrate a good Hari Raya and who is going to celebrate his wake (Wake: a watch or vigil held beside the body of someone who has died).

READ: Group wants Isa to step down as FGV chairman 

READ: Rakyat Malaysia beri Idris Jala dua minggu selesaikan kemelut FGVH – Tony Pua 

Najib knows the repercussion to this Felda-FGV crisis. Pakatan Harapan’s opportunists such as Rafizi Ramli and Tony Pua are already jumping onto the bandwagon and are going to town on the matter. They hope this crisis will affect the 54 or so Umno seats, which comes to half the seats Umno won or can win. Hence this is a goldmine for Pakatan Harapan that needs to defeat Umno if it wants to bring down Barisan Nasional.

Umno and Barisan Nasional worked very hard to lay the groundwork for the next general election. Currently, Umno and Barisan Nasional are in a most favourable position with the opposition in an utter mess. Even Pakatan Harapan no longer talks about forming the next government but whether they can just deny Barisan Nasional its two-thirds majority in Parliament. And a lot rests on Umno where half the seats come from the Felda constituencies.

Isa is an idiot if he thinks Najib’s Boffin Boys are going to allow him to undo all their good work these last few years. He overrated himself and thought he was too important in the bigger scheme of things. Najib is not going to allow anybody to jeopardise all the work Umno has done in these 54 Felda constituencies. Isa has put himself above Umno in his lust for power and he is soon going to discover he is a small fish in a big pond.

Isa made many missteps along the way. First of all as a non-executive Chairman he has no business interfering in management issues. After all FGV already has a CEO, Zakaria. Then Isa lied to the Prime Minister, such as regarding the auditor’s report. Isa then acted as an Executive Chairman by asking Zakaria to resign before first bringing the matter to the Board.


When Zakaria wrote that letter to Isa, it was game over. Isa’s denial about asking Zakaria to resign was proven a lie. Zakaria then offered to be investigate by the MACC to establish whether he was corrupt. Isa was now caught in a bind because he certainly could not say no to that (or else it would look like he has something to hide). However, if the MACC comes in they would be opening a can of worms. Zakaria had very cleverly checkmated Isa.

Isa is also very angry with the Boffin Boys who preempted all his moves and outwitted him every step of the way. Isa thought he was the master of the game and never expected Najib’s Boffin Boys to run circles around him. Isa’s ‘old school’ or kampung brand of politics based on deceit, lies and misinformation no longer works in this age of the information revolution. Isa has still not realised that he has been beaten and still talks and acts like he is control of the ball.

Putting Idris Jala in charge of solving the FGV crisis was a brilliant move that caught many by surprise

But the final coup was pulled off by Najib himself. Getting Idris Jala to step in and work with Shahrir to investigate the matter and get it resolved was brilliant. With one sweep of the hand Najib resolved what was threatening to be a disaster. Isa underestimated Najib’s resolve, just like how Mahathir did. In fact, Mahathir recently admitted he has lost the game when he said in a Tokyo interview that Najib is currently a very powerful Prime Minister whereas just two years ago Mahathir insulted Najib by calling him a lame duck.

Isa should have taken note of what Mahathir said. Najib is what one would call the Deathstalker (Leiurus quinquestriatus) or yellow scorpion. It may remain still but it is the most poisonous of all the species of scorpions. And when it stings you remain stung for a very long time, just like how Mahathir found out the hard way and is still feeling stung. The Media Prima and FGV cases should be a warning to the other heads of the GLCs to not take Najib for granted. And if they think they can pull a fast one on Najib they have another thing coming.

MACC raids FGV’s office and confiscates files and documents