Hornbill Unleashed

February 22, 2012

Why hasn’t Shahrizat resigned?

(Condo/cow image: sxc.hu)

Wong Chin Huat

WHAT do cows and condominiums have to do with each other? This question arose after it was revealed that the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) had purchased several luxury condominiums. The question was a no-brainer because the NFC received a RM250 million government soft loan to run a cattle-breeding project, not dabble in real estate.

The NFC is run by the family of Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil. Her husband, Datuk Seri Mohamed Salleh Ismail, is NFC chairperson. Their son, Wan Shahinur Izmir Mohamed Salleh, is chief executive officer. Their other son, Wan Shahinur Izran Mohamed Salleh, is executive director. Allegations have also arisen over the use of NFC funds to settle nearly RM600,000 of the family’s credit card bills, although Shahrizat’s son Izmir has stated that the bills were for NFC business expenses.

On 13 Jan 2012, Shahrizat took three weeks’ leave from her ministerial duties to facilitate Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigations. She resumed work on 6 Feb. There is no indication as yet that any of her family members will be charged or that she will be asked to resign from her post. Should Shahrizat resign for something her family is involved in? And what are the NFC scandal’s implications on Malaysian politics? The Nut Graph asks political scientist Dr Wong Chin Huat.

TNG: Shahrizat has denied any involvement with the NFC and has said that questions should be directed at those running the corporation. There are, however, calls for her to resign, even from within Umno. Why should she?

If it can be demonstrated that the NFC project was granted without it having anything to do with Shahrizat, then there is no reason why she should resign. For now, there are too many unanswered questions about how her family got involved in managing the NFC. What were their qualifications to run a cattle-breeding project? How was the NFC appointed as the company most capable of running this project? Was there an open tender? Why were qualified breeders not appointed? Was there any special preference given to Shahrizat’s family due to her political connections?

None of these questions have been answered satisfactorily. The appearance that her family has benefited from her connections has not been dispelled. Until this happens, she is implicated. And unless she can answer these questions, she should resign.

If that is the case, why hasn’t Shahrizat resigned? What does it take for ministers to resign in Malaysia?


What does it takes for a Malaysian minister to resign? It certainly can’t be scandals alone, otherwise our cabinet may not have enough quorum to call its weekly meetings. And forget about resigning out of a sense of shame. That’s one thing conveniently left out in Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s “Look East” policy: we were told to employ best practices from, for example, Japan, but having shame for doing wrong was conveniently left out.

We can’t rely on court convictions either to force ministers to resign because Malaysia’s attorney-generals tend to act like private legal advisers to the prime minister. As a result, it is highly unlikely that any sitting minister will be charged in court for corruption.

The only reason for a minister’s resignation in Malaysia would be if he or she falls out of favour due to public anger and pressure.

So, why hasn’t Sharizat resigned? Two reasons – first, because Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak must still trust her. The attacks from within Umno only show how much Najib must treasure her if he still hasn’t asked her to step down. Second, because the Malaysian public has not openly demanded for her resignation. Public demonstrations would highlight government inaction and pressure a resignation, sacking, or even a charge.

We have not seen even one demonstration in Shahrizat’s honour, even though the NFC issue has triggered a lot of anger because you don’t need any financial knowledge to know that cattle and condominiums don’t go together.

Sometimes, I wonder how much corruption it would take for Malaysians to be angry enough to go to the streets. The amount involved in the NFC is small compared with scandals like thePort Klang Free Zone (PKFZ), which also involved public funds. And there was also no demonstration against those behind the PKFZ issue. Is there a price tag for our anger?

As long as Shahrizat still has Najib’s trust, and as long as the public remains apathetic and does not pressure Najib, she will survive. Which leads me to wonder, why are Malaysians apathetic about this? Two possibilities I can think of: either Malaysians are too rich and are comfortable with cows living in condominiums, or they want Najib to fall alongside Shahrizat in the next elections.

In a way, Najib is inheriting this issue from former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s administration. How much responsibility should Najib have to take for the NFC scandal? Is this indicative of the level of corruption within his administration?

Najib needs to bear full responsibility for every day Shahrizat is in office after the NFC scandal surfaced. Why? Every minister serves at the prime minister’s confidence. So, the buck stops at the highest command.

True, it was not Najib who approved the decision to grant a government soft loan to Shahrizat’s family. But refusing to order her resignation means he is endorsing her. If she is a problem, then he is guilty of not removing the problem. Remember, she was asked to take leave, which could have been one step before resigning. And now, she is back at work, which means he actively endorses her.

Muhyiddin (file pic)

Other than Shahrizat, equally untenable in Najib’s cabinet is the agriculture minister who approved the project. This is none other than Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who defended Shahrizat from the beginning. Now, if Najib’s No. 2  and a senior minister are implicated in a fairly straightforward case of corruption – a fact increasingly recognised by many Umno leaders, including Mahathir – what reform can you expect from the Najib administration?

Najib seems to have survived many challenges to his government’s image in almost three years of his premiership. Will his government survive this as well, or will it prove to have a bigger impact at elections as the Lingam tape did for Abdullah Badawi?

Najib is handling “Shahrizat Gate” much worse than how Abdullah handled the Lingam tapecontroversy. And turning condominiums into a ranch isn’t even as bad as bartering judicial appointments in the greater scheme of democracy. Plus, let’s remember, none of the Lingam tape protagonists sat in Abdullah’s cabinet, directly within his reach.

It is very possible for voters not to punish Najib for his permissive attitude towards Shahrizat and his reneged promises of reforms. After all, Malaysian voters are known to have short-term memories. To appropriate Mahathir’s quote, “Malaysians mudah lupa.” I suppose we could look at it positively. Once, some foreigners thought that Malaysians lived in trees. Now we can proudly tell them, in Malaysia, cows live in condominiums. That’s what we call a developed country.

I can’t really tell whether the public is indifferent or accumulating their anger. In the case of the Lingam tape, lawyers went to the streets. Later, more went to join the 2007 Bersih and Hindraf rallies. So far, we don’t have farmers walking. And none of the anti-Peaceful Assembly Bill protests has shown a shocking number of participants. Perhaps the 26 Feb anti-Lynasrally will be a good indicator.

If the turnout is gigantic, then it means that national anger and frustration have reached a certain level. I am certain that Shahrizat would be one of the factors, even if there are no banners or placards in her honour. If the turnout is average, Najib can safely keep Shahrizat, because that would indicate that many Malaysians don’t have a problem with the combination of cattle and condos.

If the NFC issue is thoroughly investigated and proper prosecutions and judgments are made, will this bring about a positive change in cronyism and corruption in this country?

No. Cronyism and corruption cannot be rooted out unless you have media freedom, and freedom of expression, information, assembly and association. Notwithstanding rare exceptions like authoritarian Singapore, clean politics is usually the product of a functioning democracy.

But if Shahrizat is sacked, at least it will reduce cynicism and frustration towards the Najib administration. And Malaysians will also have one less person to blame for the injustices they feel in Malaysia



  1. Shahrizat Jalil had not resigned for the same reason why the twin thief ministers of Sarawak and Sabah are still clinging on to their chief ministership post. The simple fact is that under the regime of the most corrupted, abusive, repressive and oppressive UMNO controlled BN government, all their ministers, past and present, must be protected at all cost from MACC, Police and prosecution.

    Comment by Mata Kuching — February 22, 2012 @ 2:10 PM | Reply

    • So we might need an Arab Spring style of weeding out these crooks ?

      Comment by rc — February 23, 2012 @ 1:28 AM | Reply


    1. Germany President Christian Wulff resigns amid scandal

    German president and Merkel ally resigns in corruption scandal

    Ally of Angela Merkel had been under increasing pressure over home loan and apparent attempt to block report in tabloid

    Helen Pidd in Berlin
    guardian.co.uk, Friday 17 February 2012 10.30 GMT
    Article history

    Germany’s president, Christian Wulff, announces his resignation Link to this video

    The German president, Christian Wulff, has resigned after being caught up in a corruption scandal involving a dubious loan, an apparent attempt to block a report in a German tabloid and a string of apparently undeclared freebies.

    Wulff, who had served as the head of state since 2010, stepped down on Friday after prosecutors said they had asked the German parliament to lift his immunity.

    They said they had “factual indications” of Wulff’s long-suspected improper ties to business executives.

    The chancellor, Angela Merkel, cancelled a trip to visit the Italian prime minister, Mario Monti, in order to deal with the fallout.

    2. 2 February 2012 Last updated at 23:34 GMT

    Brazilian Minister Negromonte resigns over ‘corruption’
    Mario Negromonte (l) greets the governor of Bahia Jacques Wagner on 24 January 2012 Mario Negromonte is the seventh minister to resign amid allegations of corruption

    The Brazilian minister in charge of transport projects has resigned amid allegations of corruption.

    Minister of Cities Mario Negromonte is the seventh minister in President Dilma Rousseff’s cabinet to step down amid corruption charges.

    3. Romanian prime minister and cabinet resign en masse

    Emil Boc says he is quitting to ‘release tension’ after weeks of protests over austerity measures and alleged corruption

    Helen Pidd
    The Guardian, Tuesday 7 February 2012
    Article history

    Romanian prime minister announces his resignation. Source: Reuters Link to this video

    The Romanian prime minister and his cabinet have resigned after weeks of sometimes violent protests over widespread corruption and austerity measures.

    Emil Boc said on Monday he was quitting “to release the tension in the country’s political and social situation”.

    4. Two more Ugandan ministers resign over corruption scandal
    Henry Wasswa | 17 February 2012 | 0 Comments

    Kampala (dpa) – Two ministers in Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s cabinet resigned on Thursday, the latest allies of the long-serving ruler to step down amid graft charges.

    Three ministers in 2011 were forced by parliament to resign after being implicated in corruption scandals involving the procurement of vehicles for the 2007 Commonwealth summit. A former vice president was also accused in the scandal, but was recently acquitted by a court.

    The latest pair to be shown the door were Gender Minister Syda Bbumba and Khiddu Makubuya, who had a ministerial post inside the prime minister’s office.

    Bbumba had previously served as finance minister while Makubuya had been a justice minister and attorney general. Both were part of cabinet for the last 15 years.

    “I wish to take political responsibility (for) the mistakes made and I wish to confirm my resignation. My resignation however does not mean that I am guilty,” Bbumba told parliament, while legislators applauded and stomped their feet.

    5. By Samuel Rubenfeld

    A roundup of corruption-related news from Dow Jones and other sources. You can also receive a newsletter version of Corruption Currents here.


    Mike Lucas

    South Korea’s parliament speaker resigned over a bribery scandal in which he was alleged to have organized cash envelopes to be handed out at a party convention in 2008. He previously denied the allegations, but his spokesman said at a press conference, without referring to the bribery accusations, that the speaker wanted to take “all responsibility” for the scandal. More here, here and here. (AFP, Reuters, NY Times, Daily Telegraph)

    6. 8 February 2012 Last updated at 20:49 GMT
    Chongqing policeman Wang Lijun ‘holiday’ sparks rumours
    By Michael Bristow BBC News, Beijing

    Wang Lijun is well known because of his role in a crackdown on organised crime

    China executes ‘gangland madam’
    China executes Chongqing official
    Taking on corruption in booming Chongqing

    A top Chinese policeman – in charge of a major crackdown on organised crime – has gone on leave, amid rumours that he is under investigation for corruption.

    Wang Lijun is receiving what his employers describe as “holiday-style medical treatment”.

    He shot to national fame several years ago after spearheading a popular crackdown on crime in the city of Chongqing.
    It would be a major embarrassment if he was found to have broken the law.

    7. Ex-UK police officer convicted of corruption
    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    LONDON, England (AP) — A former senior British police officer was sentenced to jail on corruption charges yesterday for falsely arresting a business rival over a financial dispute.

    A jury in London found Ali Dizaei, a former commander with London’s Metropolitan Police, guilty of misconduct in public office and perverting the course of justice. He was accused of making threats, assault, false arrest and faking evidence against Iraqi businessman Waad al-Baghdadi in a dispute over payment for work on Dizaei’s website.

    It was 49-year-old Dizaei’s second trial on the charges, which stemmed from a July 2008 altercation outside a London restaurant that ended with al-Baghdadi, then 24, in handcuffs. Dizaei told colleagues al-Baghdadi had attacked him, and the younger man spent 24 hours in a jail cell before being released.

    Al-Baghdadi then brought a formal complaint against Iran-born Dizaei, who was convicted in February 2010 and sentenced to four years in jail.

    Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Ex-UK-police-officer-convicted-of-corruption_10764381#ixzz1n3VmCibE

    Silvio Berlusconi suffers blow as minister resigns over corruption charges

    8. Source: Telegraph

    Silvio Berlusconi suffers blow as minister resigns over corruption charges

    Silvio Berlusconi’s government suffered a blow on Tuesday when a minister was forced to resign over allegations that he was involved in an illegal property deal.

    By Nick Squires in Rome
    Published: 4:25PM BST 04 May 2010

    Claudio Scajola, the industry minister and a close ally of Mr Berlusconi, stepped down amid accusations that he paid well below the market rate for a luxury apartment overlooking the Colosseum in Rome.

    The flat was partly paid for by a Rome-based businessman, who is at the heart of a separate corruption investigation into the awarding of building contracts, according to prosecutors.

    Mr Scajola’s departure marked the first big change to the cabinet since Mr Berlusconi was re-elected two years ago.

    It comes at a time of deep instability in the governing coalition, with bitter feuding between the prime minister’s two most important allies: Umberto Bossi, the leader of the xenophobic Northern League, and Gianfranco Fini, a suave former fascist.

    9. Channel 4 News
    Programme at 1900 weekdays, weekend timings see listings

    Yates: Police will be jailed over phone hack corruption

    Tuesday 19 July 2011

    Scotland Yard chiefs are grilled by MPs over damaging evidence of links between the Met and suspects in the phone-hacking investigation.

    One of Britain’s top policemen has said he believes officers will end up being jailed for corruption amid the fallout of the phone-hacking scandal.

    Sir Paul Stephenson and Assistant Commissioner John Yates were called before MPs after resigning over links between the Met Police and former News of the World journalists accused of involvement in the scandal.

    Mr Yates told MPs: “I confidently predict that as a result of the News International disclosures a very small number of police officers will go to prison as a result of corruption.”

    The Met’s director of public affairs Dick Fedorcio was also grilled about the decision to give Neil Wallis, the newspaper’s former deputy editor and a friend of John Yates, a lucrative part-time contract as a PR consultant.

    10. Bulgaria “Borilski” Case Judge Resigns over Corruption Scandal

    The Deputy Chair of the Appellate Court in Veliko Tarnovo, Milcho Vanev, submitter Friday his resignation to the Supreme Judicial Council (VSS).

    The move came on the heels of Vanev’s questioning by the VSS Commission on Professional Ethics and Corruption Prevention. Vanev was called along with the Plovdiv Appellate Prosecutor, Andreya Atanasov.

    Both are among the 13 magistrates and prosecutors involved in the scandal with the so-called Krasio from Pleven. Krasimir Georgiev aka “Krasio from Pleven” is an individual who, allegedly, offered magistrates to secure their appointment to high ranking positions through the vote of the VSS in exchange for EUR 200 000 in cash.

    Vanev is also the judge and the reporter in the “Borislki” case that has been followed up closely by the European Institutions.
    In his resignation he cites as motive his moral duty saying the move is the only way to lift all doubt regarding his conduct.

    The Commission further decided to initiate legal proceedings against those who have been in touch with Krasio.

    This is the sixth resignation stemming from the scandal. The others are the ones of the Chair of the District Court in the Black Sea town of Nessebar, Plamen Naydenov, the Chair of the Burgas Appellate Court, Dora Chineva, the Administrative Head of the Burgas District Prosecutor’s Office, Angel Angelov, and those of the members of the Supreme Judicial Council (VSS), Stoyko Stoev and Ivan Dimov.

    11. PM forces Raja to resign

    New Delhi, Nov 14, DHNS:

    Minister’s quitting expected to quell Opposition clamour in Parliament
    Intense pressure from the Congress and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday forced UPA ally DMK to urge its Dalit mascot and Union Telecom Minister A Raja to resign over allegations that he flouted rules to grant 2G spectrum licences in 2008, costing the exchequer Rs 1.76 lakh crore.

    Hours before quitting, Raja had told reporters that “there was no question of my resigning”. But by 11 pm, the minister met Singh at his residence and submitted his resignation. The decision came after Raja returned from his second trip to Chennai in two days for parleys with DMK chief M Karunanidhi.

    Raja told reporters after meeting Singh that he had resigned as per the advice of Karunanidhi. “I resigned to avoid embarrassment to the government in Parliament. This (the quitting) is not an admission of guilt. I will prove I am innocent. I have not done anything wrong. I revolutionised the telecom sector and I am proud of it,” he said.

    Comment by anon — February 22, 2012 @ 6:06 AM | Reply

  3. A half-dead snake is very dangerous, and Najib knows how to make good use of her.

    Comment by Tigeryk — February 22, 2012 @ 5:05 AM | Reply

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