by Kee Thuan Chye
March 14, 2012
Shahrizat did not ‘resign’. She knew the time was up, and perhaps the game too.
Let’s get this right. Shahrizat Abdul Jalil did not, in the strict sense of the word, resign. She merely chose to relinquish her position as Women, Family and Community Development Minister just a little ahead of April 8, when her senatorship would expire.
And her guess was probably as good as many people’s that her senatorship would not be extended, given that she’s now a liability to her party, Umno.
Ever since the National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp) scandal broke out, she has been hounded for the fact that the company belongs to her family. Despite her claims that she had nothing to do with how the NFCorp got a RM250 million soft loan from the government while she was a member of the Cabinet, few people actually believe her.
So, if her senatorship were to be extended, Umno’s chances at the coming general election would have been severely impaired.
So no, she did not ‘resign’. She knew the time was up, and perhaps the game too.
The day after she made the announcement, her husband, NFCorp chairman Mohamad Salleh Ismail was charged with criminal breach of trust and misuse of funds – to the tune of RM49.7 million. She might have known this was coming, so she chose to step down first.
So was her act a noble one?
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak came out to declare that it was. He said Shahrizat, in resigning, was sacrificing herself for the party and the government.
Pardon my Malaysian, but that’s bullshit.
What sacrifice is it when she has waited so long after the NFC scandal broke out last October before doing what she calls – believe it or not – “the right thing”? What sacrifice is it when she is ‘resigning’ just as her senatorship is about to expire?
Furthermore, why has she chosen to remain as Wanita Umno chief? Why doesn’t she resign from that position as well? If she did that, it might really be a sacrifice.
The truth seems to be that her act is not wholehearted. After all, critics had been howling for her to step down for the last few months, but she had stood up against them. At the Wanita Umno assembly in late November, she came out fighting till she looked – in newspaper photographs – red in the face. She even literally rolled up her sleeves!
She insisted she had nothing to do with the NFC issue. “I do my job, my husband does his,” she said. “And he is not in the wrong.” The way the scandal has developed, one wonders if she still truly thinks the same.
She challenged PKR to ask its president, Dr Wan Azizah Ismail, to step down – because her husband, Anwar Ibrahim, had been found guilty and charged with offences “which I don’t even have the heart to say out loud”. She tried to deflect the issue at hand by casting the focus on somebody else.
She talked big and aggressive (a manner that has become de rigueur among many Umno politicians).
She said, “Thirty years I have served in Umno, and I am still strong. Women, the more they age the stronger they become.”
She added, mawkishly, “I believe every woman, mother and wife understands me and is crying with me.” But she must have been mistaken. If anyone cried, it was over her disregard for public accountability.
Shahrizat has not represented herself well at all in regard to the scandal. If she had shown humility, people might have been softer on her. So even now, as she hits her lowest ebb, her image has not improved.
Her colleagues, however, tried to make her smell like a bouquet of roses.
Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who is also her party’s vice-president and has a track record for saying inane things, said, “It is courageous of her to leave her ministerial post but at the same time be willing to lead the women’s wing.”
Courageous? For doing something before it was done to her?
He added, “It is a sacrifice … (because) she has not been linked legally to the NFC issue. It looks like she made her decision based on other aspects such as moral, political and personal considerations.”
That’s a contradiction. He’s actually saying she’s following her conscience even though there is no legal case against her involvement in the NFC. Well, if so, her stepping down is all the more NOT a sacrifice but an admission! After all, doing something on moral grounds in response to allegations already implies awareness of wrongdoing.
Public perception against Shahrizat
Puteri Umno chief Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin sounded like a schoolgirl when, in expressing sympathy for Shahrizat, she said the opposition had manipulated the NFC issue.
How do you manipulate something that is already there, that has been done? The opposition did not make the NFC misuse the loan from the government, it merely brought the case out in the open. That’s not manipulation.
Others who chipped in to sing Shahrizat’s praises included Umno information chief Ahmad Maslan, Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Noh Omar, Deputy Education Minister Mohd Puad Zarkashi and Umno vice-president Mohd Shafie Apdal.
Unfortunately, Shahrizat’s name has come to be mixed so much with cow turd that no one can purge it of its stench.
The thing is, perception is often stronger than proof when it comes to politics, so for all that she and the others might say about her not having been involved in NFC – at least in its securing the RM250 million loan – the public jury has already decided the verdict.
The knowing ones among the public are also aware that this ‘resignation’ – packaged with the charging of her husband – is merely aimed at making her party look good. In time for the general election.
Voters might, however, want to take note that the NFC scandal has come about only because there is now an opposition that is strong and willing to expose the filth in Putrajaya. This is something to keep in mind when they go to the polling booths.