Umno gets tough with Shahrizat: Najib issues ultimatum while Wanita members ponder EGM
It looks like Umno has made up its mind to ditch Women's chief Shahrizat Jalil, and will use a two-pronged approach to prise her out from both her Cabinet post and the Wanita presidency.
According to Umno sources, Prime Minister Najib Razak has told her in no uncertain terms to make up her mind and "don't force me to sack you" as far as her Women's minister Cabinet post is concerned. As for her presidency of the Umno women's wing or Wanita, several women leaders including deputy chief Kamilia Ibrahim and former chief Rafidah Aziz have begun moves to call for an Extraordinary General Meeting to pass a no-confidence vote against her.
"This time, there is no more escape. The last straw came when her son issued a public statement that the family had a prerogative to invest in the condos. The family has completely misjudged public opinion, they don't even realize that they come off sounding arrogant even if they don't mean to. But the rest of Umno is by now very well aware of what a stink the NFC has caused. Shahrizat is a time-bomb and Umno has to detonate her one way or another," an Umno insider toldMalaysia Chronicle.
Indeed, dozens of reporters had waited outside the Prime Minister's residence from as early as 8am on Thursday amid swirling rumors of her imminent resignation. Although, her aides later informed the press that Shahrizat had gone to the PM's official residence to attend a meeting on the Government Transformation Programme and Economic Transformation Programme, Umno sources said she also met with Najib.
"The PM has made it clear she has to go and left it to her to decide the timing but obviously, it can't be too long. He also told her he could only guide her on the Cabinet post. But for the Wanita presidency, which is an elected post, he has to leave it to the women delegates. Unless Shahrizat agrees to also step down as Wanita chief, she faces an EGM which will be very embarrassing for her," the Umno insider said.
Shahrizat's family was awarded the National Feedlot Centre cattle breeding project to oversee in 2006 and also granted a RM250million government soft loan to develop the scheme, which aims to supply cheaply-priced beef to Malaysians.
In the past 3 months, thanks to anonymous whistle-blowers, PKR leaders led by strategy director Rafizi Ramli have revealed a slew of transactions that reeked of misappropriation of funds.Althogh, Shahrizat has blamed the PKR leaders for her downfall, it is believed that her real enemies - the whistle-blowers - were from Umno.
Among those suspected are FT minister and Umno Lembah Pantai division chief Raja Nong Chik, a protege of Najib's. It is believed that the PM wants Raja Nong Chik to contest in Lembah Pantai in the coming 13th general election, but Shahrizat refused to give way as this was has been her seat since the 90s until it was wrested from her in 2008 by PKR's Nurul Izzah Anwar.
Without her Cabinet post, would her family have won the NFC project?
The loan was used to purchase 5 top-end condominiums, a super-class Mercedes Benz, expensive family holidays, while million-ringgit discounts and cash transfers were given to family-controlled firms.
Shahrziat, who was questioned by the MACC on Wednesday, has insisted there is no conflict of interest and she was not involved in anyway in the NFC project.
However, few find her explanation credible or acceptable, with an Umno member even telling the press that no one knew her husband, Salleh Ismail the NFC chairman, "from Adam". The implication was, if not for Shahrizat being a Cabinet minister, Salleh who has no track record in cattle rearing would never have won the deal.
Someone is "lying"
Her son, Izmir Salleh, too was castigated when he tried to defend his parents, insisting that the RM250million loan extended to his family allowed them to invest freely.
But instead of helping to cool public anger, Izmir received a public scolding. Opposition leaders have demanded an immediate Royal Commission of Inquiry into the messy NFC project and loan.
"During our Public Accounts Committee meeting on the NFC scandal on 23 November 2012, the senior Ministry of Finance (MoF) official was very specific in saying that the loan cannot be used for purpose other than that specified, and there was definitely no provision for the loan to be used for property 'investment'," said Tony Pua, the DAP MP for PJ Utara, in a statement on Friday.
"The senior MoF officer even explained that the purpose for each drawdown must be clearly stated. When further queried, the officer confirmed that the MoF who provided the RM250 million loan facility had never received an application to purchase propety. Therefore if the senior MoF official was telling the truth when testifying with the PAC, then Wan Shahinur Izmir must be lying through his teeth to defend the indefensible."