Scrambling for time, Shahrizat sues Rafizi, Zuraidah over NFC in alleged bid to gag them
In a move that has been widely anticipated, Umno minister Shahrizat Jalil finally filed a RM100 million defamation suit against PKR leaders Rafizi Ramli and Zuraidah Kamaruddin for claiming she had misused a federal loan meant for the National Feedlot Centre.
"For us, it is fine because we have information backed up by statements and documents provided by whistle-blowers. For her, she might trying to buy some time out of her troubles," Rafizi, the PKR's strategy director, told Malaysia Chronicle.
Use the courts to reap justice, not to cow people into silence
Rafizi also accused Shahrizat of using the lawsuit to silence him and Zuraidah. Both the PKR leaders have promised further revelations to come, with Rafizi estimating he had "enough dirt to last for 2 years".
Vowing that he and Zuraidah will not bow to Shahrizat's pressure, they warned that ultimately, she stood to lose as the court hearing would only ensure that "all the truth" emerged and there would no longer be any escape for her and her family.
"This is a double-edged sword both for Shahrizat and for us. If the case is thrown, she only needs to pay the legal fees but Zuraidah and I will become bankrupt if she win. So this is her weapon against us. But we are not afraid," said Rafizi.
"In fact, we have been waiting for this, we see it as an opportunity to get down to the truth on behalf of the people. It is the people's money that is being misused and must be accounted for. So don't try to intimidate us by using money and abusing the courts. We will not bow to such pressure. Instead we will continue to drop more bombshells and to use the power of the courts as they should be used - which is to bring justice for the people."
3 weeks leave and a quiet exit?
According to the Star, Umno lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah had filed the suit on Shahrizat's behalf at the High Court on Thursday afternoon.
Indeed, Shahrizat has gone on a three-week leave to allow the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the RM250 million cattle breeding fiasco.
There is talk that she is being pressure to make a quiet exit ahead of the 13th general election. Her resignation could even come sooner if she is unable to control the damage a thorough MACC probe and an independent audit can bring.
Earlier this week, Muhyiddin announced an accounting firm would be appointed to do a complete audit. If indeed, the firm is empowered to 'scratch below the surface', then the going could get tough for the Shahrizats.
Cosmetics for GE-13
There are also some who believe that for the sake of showing a strong front ahead of the 13th general election, Prime Minister Najib Razak might try to gloss over the whole episode, rather acknowledge that his party and government had corrupt members.
Such a move is however less likely as it is bound to spark even greater public anger towards the Umno-BN government, which has ruled the country for 54 years, and trigger a historic change of guard to the Pakatan Rakyat led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.
The NFC debacle and its shocking revelations about how callously public funds were being splashed on unrelated and in some instances, personal items, have enthralled Malaysians.
PKR leaders have alleged that Shahrizat's husband and children used a huge chunk of the RM250 government soft loan to buy luxury condominiums in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, a super-class Mercedes Benzr, high-end residential land, remit million-ringgit cash transfers to family owned firms, and paid themselves over-the-top salaries with fat credit card allowances to boot.