Abdullah should suspend Felcra  Bhd Chairman Hamzah Zainuddin and call in the Anti-Corruption Agency until Hamzah could satisfy public queries about the integrity of the sources of his tens of millions of ringgit of assets as revealed by a RM11.2 million divorce settlement ordered by Perak syariah high court

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(IpohMonday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should suspend Felcra Bhd Chairman Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin and call in the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) until Hamzah  could satisfy public queries about the integrity of the sources of his tens of millions of ringgit of assets as revealed by a RM11.2 million divorce settlement in cash and assets ordered by the Perak Syariah High Court last Thursday. 

Perak Syariah High Court judge Hassan Basri Shafie had ordered Hamzah, 47,  who is also the Ipoh Barat UMNO division chief, to make payment within a month RM1.2 million for mutaah (compensation for disgrace due to divorce) to his ex-wife Nooraini Abdul Rashid, 46, while the remainder would be given in movable and immovable assets acquired by the couple during their marriage (harta sepencarian). 

Hassan said Nooraini was entitled to the compensation because throughout their marriage she had never disgraced him and had always protected the honour and safety of their children.  She had also been loyal and there were no reports of disobedience on her part from any syariah court. 

He said the wife was also entitled to a share of the common property acquired during the marriage.

The judge  ordered Hamzah to pay a monthly RM2,000 for maintenance, RM1,500 for clothes and accessories and RM1,000 for looking after the children for the 15 years that they were married, bringing the total to RM810,000.  He also awarded a total of RM396,066 to Nooraini, a former secretary, in arrears in salary for 22 years after she resigned from her job when she got married.

Hassan also declared 63,192,858 shares owned by Hamzah in three companies as common property with his ex-wife and gave him a choice to transfer a third of the shares to her or pay her RM10 million.   

On Hamzah's counter-claim for two BMW cars, a Honda Civic and a house in Subang Jaya, the court said that Nooraini could keep them as gifts.

The couple were married in 1981 and have four children aged 13 to 22. Nooraini brought the suit after Hamzah divorced her in 1996.

I am not asking Abdullah to suspend Hamzah as Felcra Chairman because of his matrimonial problems, but because  his great wealth and assets as revealed by the syariah court settlement  have raised public queries as to the propriety of their sources, especially as Abdullah had pledged a clean, incorruptible, accountable and trustworthy administration. 

Felcra, aimed at the socio-economic upliftment of some 700,000 smallholders participating in Felcra schemes to consolidate and rehabilitate land for cultivation, has a history of corruption and abuses of power by Felcra officials – illustrating the sad story of “Harapkan  pagar, pagar makan padi”. 

There was the long-running case of the Felcra director-general charged for corruption involving RM40 million belong to Felcra, the long-standing ACA investigation into the RM72 million Felcra scandal involving fertilizer contract, and in 1994, I raised in Parliament the catalogue of multi-million ringgit abuses of the Felcra tender and  project development process cheating the Felcra smallholders of their rightful dues. 

In this connection, Bernama should explain why it has tried to censor  the local press from publishing news about Hamzah’s  RM11.2 million divorce settlement ordered by the Perak syariah high court last Thursday, when it sent out an advisory to all local newspapers two hours after it had filed a story on Thursday night, which read: 

Please DO NOT (RPT) DO NOT use Bernama item datelined Ipoh slugged "Felcra Chairman Ordered To Pay Over RM11 Million to Ex-Wife". 

This is a gross interference with a free press, totally alien to Abdullah’s call on the Barisan Nasional leaders to “hear the truth”. The Bernama official who directed the sending out of such an advisory to all local media to censor the news on Hamzah’s RM11.2 million divorce settlement should be identified  and be suspended, pending an inquiry – and a report of such an inquiry by the national news agency on media censorship and interference in accordance with the Bernama statute should be tabled in Parliament when it convenes for the first time on May 17 after the March 21, 2004 general election.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman & Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor