Sunday, March 11, 2012

Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil to quit Cabinet Minister post

Once powerful Malaysian woman, Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said on Sunday, 11th March 2012 that she will step down as the country's Women, Family and Community Development Minister when her term as senator ends on April 8, 2012.

However she will remain as Wanita Umno chief.

“I want to stress that I made the decision on my own. I love this nation and have the greatest respect for the government and the prime minister.

"I have nothing to do with NFC (National Feedlot Corporation). I just happened to be married to the chairman.

“I've been in politics a long time, and it is the right thing to do,” she told reporters at Desa Water Park.

Shahrizat, who was surrounded by children and dandling a baby on her lap throughout the press conference, said she felt blessed for having the chance to serve the people.

"Serving the targeted groups under the ministry has been a joyful journey for me," she said, adding that it had brought meaning to her life.

The first-term senator's announcement comes after numerous allegations that her family had used an RM250 million federal loan meant for NFC to purchase land, property, and incurred expenses unrelated to cattle farming.

Headed by Shahrizat's husband Datuk Seri Mohamad Salleh Ismail and their three children, the NFC was meant to rear cattle for the National Feedlot Centre in Gemas, Negri Sembilan.

However, in 2010 the Auditor-General's Report pointed out that the NFC had missed production goals that lead to a barrage of revelations about NFC that put her family under an unfavourable spotlight.

The former Lembah Pantai Member of Parliament had maintained that she had nothing to do with the NFC as she was “only the wife” of Salleh.

Since then, the publicly-funded firm has been repeatedly accused by opposition parties of using its government soft loan for purposes unrelated to cattle farming, including the purchase of luxury condominium units in Bangsar and Singapore, and land in Putrajaya.

The police recommended last February 2012, that the Attorney-General (AG) charge NFC's directors for criminal breach of trust, but the AG has requested that the police conduct further investigations.

Meanwhile former Wanita UMNO Chief, Tan Sri RAFIDAH AZIZ (picture above) whom Shahrizat unseated in the March 2009 UMNO General Election flatly said, Shahrizat is still a burden for not relinquishing Wanita leadership!

"QUIT? What quit?". That seems to be the question on many lips following Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil's announcement on Sunday, 11th March 2012, that she was stepping down as the women, family and community development minister, in reaction to the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) scandal.

One of her harshest critics is her predecessor in Wanita Umno, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, who indicated that one should not attempt to downplay the events that led to Shahrizat's term as senator not being renewed and hence losing her minister's post.

"There is no issue of stepping down or resigning!" Rafidah said when contacted by The Malay Mail.

"There is nothing to step down from as she is legally no longer a minister on April 8, 2012."

"She is not resigning on April 8, it is just that her senatorship expires that day and her ministerial post automatically lapses."

Calling Shahrizat's quit announcement as a "sham of a statement", Rafidah said resigning meant Shahrizat should quit immediately – while she was still a senator.

"So, really there is no sacrifice as it was a natural sequence of events," said the former minister of international trade and industry who was among the first to ask Shahrizat to quit over the NFC scandal.

"The party and government have had to face so much flak on account of her unwillingness to resign quickly and prioritise the interests of the party and the government."

Rafidah lost the Wanita Umno chief's post to Shahrizat in 2007 but retained her Kuala Kangsar parliament seat in the 2008 "political tsunami" that saw Barisan Nasional (BN) lose its two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat.

In that general election, Shahrizat lost her Lembah Pantai seat to newcomer Nurul Izzah Anwar, but was appointed a senator and returned to the Cabinet.

Rafi dah also said since Shahrizat remained Wanita chief, she was still a burden to the party since members realised that she did not resign her ministerial post but that the post automatically lapsed on April 8.

She said it might be tough for Umno to explain why she did not step down as Wanita head.

"That issue is now a problem in itself. It does not matter what happens to one person but every division must now concentrate on the grassroots election work in every locality," she said.

However, Rafidah acknowledges that while the ministerial post is an appointed one, Shahrizat was elected as Wanita chief and hence one must also factor in the wishes of members.

"That (vacating her position as Wanita head) is her prerogative as she was elected," she said.

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