MARCH 11 — Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil's decision to quit as a minister next month is not surprising. Her position in the Najib administration has been untenable since the Auditor-General reported that the publicly-funded National Feedlot Centre (NFC) run by her family had not met expectations.
What is surprising is the time she took to step down from the Cabinet. Even today, she announced it will be effective April 8, when her three-year term as a senator ends.
"I really have nothing to do with NFC except that I'm married to the chairman of NFC. But as a responsible member of the government, I feel the right thing for me to do is to step down."
"I am not only a leader, I'm also a wife and mother as well. So I know what I have to do and I'm doing the right thing," Shahrizat said, adding it was her own decision to resign from the Cabinet.
In a way, she is helping Datuk Seri Najib Razak avoid the embarrassing decision of not giving her another term as a senator to remain as a minister. But there is already embarrassment in BN as she had defied critics to stay on in the Cabinet.
As many Umno leaders have argued, the Wanita Umno chief should have done so earlier, instead of waiting for the end of her senatorship to make up her mind.
Fact is, her resignation this April will have little positive impact for BN or Umno in the coming elections. She is a popular minister whose ministry has done some good for the people. But her family's alleged business practises using public funds have cut her stature.
And of course, BN's and Umno's stature too. The NFC scandal has brought to focus the way public funds is disbursed and spent. The lack of oversight, the lack of controls and the lack of remorse among those entrusted with a sizeable amount of public money. Shahrizat's resignation now sharpens the focus on the NFC directors. Will there be action taken against them for apparently abusing the RM250 million soft loan? Who will answer for the NFC's lacklustre performance, for missing its targets?
Will the government take back the high-impact project? What happens to the properties allegedly bought with the loan money?
And how will this affect Umno, for that matter Wanita Umno which is seen as the party's backbone. The fact that Shahrizat remains as the wing leader reflects the party's confidence that she can lead them for the general election.
Will she be able to make a comeback if she survives the NFC scandal and be selected as a "winnable candidate"? Or will the Najib administration make a stand that anyone with a whiff of scandal cannot be part of the next government if it wins the general election?
Shahrizat's long goodbye could prove to be both a boon or a bane for BN. What could really tip the scales for them is if the Najib administration takes action against those misusing public funds.
Otherwise, her resignation whether last January or in April will not win BN anything but just confirm that it has been in power too long to know right from wrong.
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