Friday, December 09, 2011

Najib should not protect a fallen woman

Mariam Mokhtar | December 9, 2011

'People First, Performance Now' has been replaced by 'Cover-ups in corruption'.


It is doubtful that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak believed a word of what he said, in the closing ceremony of Umno’s 2011 general assembly last week.

He claimed to have achieved his four objectives for the party conference: Umno was united, the party was geared up for the 13th general election, delegates fully supported the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and Umno can be relied upon to provide a better future for the rakyat.

If Najib wants to earn the respect of the rakyat, he should assume leadership and address the financial irregularities which have embroiled members of his Cabinet.

The government website claims that the GTP would address “priorities that matter most to the rakyat”. With “1Malaysia” in mind, it is said to focus on “People First, Performance Now”.

Family, Women, and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil defended her role in the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal, where RM250 million of taxpayers’ money was alleged to have been misappropriated by her husband and three children.

Shahrizat’s denials and her cries of having “nothing to do with it”, will have cost Najib votes. Her arrogance has dented public confidence in Najib, despite the outward show of support by delegates.

The rakyat has been told to tighten their belts. However, it is the taxpayer who has subsidised Shahrizat and her family’s luxurious lifestyle – the RM800,000 on overseas holidays, two luxury apartments costing RM14 million, a RM534,000 Mercedes and RM30,000 for her husband and son to perform the haj.

Perhaps, at the end of this debacle, the taxpayer will have to bail her and the government out. Again.

Najib and his ministers rallied around Shahrizat at the party conference. Despite his claim of a united front, his avoidance of the issue may precipitate his own downfall. The drip-drip exposures of large-scale corruption, involving Umno-BN politicians is like a dam with large cracks in it.

“People First, Performance Now” has been replaced by “Cover-ups in corruption”.

The irresponsible Shahrizat used the Wanita Umno platform to defend herself. She said, “I am being patient, as a woman I have to be calm… they (Pakatan Rakyat) are doing this because they are afraid of Wanita Umno’s strength.”

This project is not Wanita Umno’s doing but had all the fingerprints of Shahrizat and her family’s greed. She even tried to drag the integrity of women, into this scandal.

Covering up the mess

Shahrizat accused the opposition of scheming to undermine Umno. She forgot that it was the Auditor-General’s Report on the national audit which alerted us to the abuse of funds in the NFC.

Senior politicians – from Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, and former premier, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, right down to Umno Youth leader, Khairy Jamaluddin – were prepared to sink into the mire, to cover up the mess.

Even the police had a part in this drama. They claimed that there was no criminal breach of trust in the NFC scandal. Haven’t they jumped the gun by being investigator, judge and jury?

Umno is in a bind. Shahrizat must be protected at all costs. Najib knows that if one minister were to fall, the other ministers would be at risk, too. His own position is precarious.

Najib realises that his authority over the more recalcitrant Umno members, grows weaker by the day. However, as long as they stick together, their corrupt deeds need never be revealed. Najib knows that he cannot sacrifice anyone, just yet, because he has no control over them once they are out of his inner circle.

At best, Najib can only hope that the whole thing will blow over. But it won’t.

PAS vice-president Mahfuz Omar charged Umno with scaring the Malays into believing that the DAP would erase Malay rights.

He said, “Don’t come to a point where we (Malays) become fearful of DAP, and then RM250 million disappears from National Feedlot Corporation.

“Afraid of DAP, RM52 billion worth of Bumiputera shares shrinks to RM2 billion… afraid of DAP, RM1.8 billion given to (former MAS CEO) Tajuddin Ramli goes missing… afraid of DAP, RM32 billion vanishes from the Hardcore Poverty Development programme (PPRT).”

In contrast, Ahmad Maslan, a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, warned delegates about the DAP. He said: “The Malay language will be lost, say goodbye to the Malay Sultans… say goodbye to Islam.”

Ahmad also claimed that should the opposition triumph in the 13th geneal election, the DAP would “not respect the royal institution” and that these “agents of Christianisation” would result in “Malays losing power”. He painted a portrait of a country where the Chinese monopolised the country’s politics and economy.

No jobs in kampungs

A village elder, who was asked to comment about the developments in the general assembly, said, “Despite being in power for over 54 years, Umno made only a few Malays rich beyond their wildest deams. But not the majority. Look around you. Look at this village, or what is left of it.

“This kampung was once a thriving community. Our smallholdings and agricultural produce sustained us. But it saw a decline in the past two decades.

“Homes are abandoned, there are no jobs in the kampungs. The old moved to the towns and cities to be with their children. This is a ghost village. Even politicians stopped turning up before elections.

“The leaders ripped up our communities. First, they took away our lands and gave concessions to the big companies. These big businesses expected us to be their cheap labourers. When we refused, they brought in the foreign workers. We are priced out of our own lands, our own heritage and our livelihood.

“We continue to give Umno our support. Why, I wonder?”

At the party conference, Najib claimed that the rakyat should entrust their future to Umno. Shahrizat said that the opposition was “jealous” of Umno. And Ahmad claimed DAP was racist while Muhyiddin said Umno was not.

Despite the assurances of Najib and the Umno high command, the party appears troubled and insecure.

Ahmad, the Umno information chief, referred to a “hung Parliament”. He sounds insecure and appears to lack confidence in his party.

Perhaps, when things really slide and his own position becomes untenable, Najib may want to save his own skin and only then discard some of the old baggage.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

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