March 22, 2012
An Alternative Viewpoint on Shahruzat and NFCorp: Victim or Political Albatross?
By Joceline Tan@www.thestar.com.my
The UMNO rank-and-file resent attempts to turn Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil’s family problems into a party problem and are banking on the Prime Minister to take matters into his hands when he addresses the senior ladies on Friday(March 23).
IT is no secret by now that Datuk Kamilia Ibrahim, the No. 2 in Wanita UMNO, is appalled by the NFCorp issue.
Everyone in UMNO has noticed that the last time Kamilia appeared alongside her Wanita UMNO chief Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil was at the party general assembly in December. She disapproves of how Shahrizat’s family has handled the cattle-rearing project and has kept a distance from the outgoing minister.
But Kamilia will be at the PWTC this Friday when the Prime Minister addresses Wanita UMNO members from all over the country.“I will be there to support the PM. He is the party President. I will abide by his decision and I will play my role and focus on the general election,” said the lawyer-cum-politician.
This will be the second mass gathering of Wanita UMNO grassroots leaders in a fortnight and while the event is ostensibly a show of support for the Prime Minister, some are asking if it is also an agenda on behalf of the beleaguered Wanita UMNO leader.
Shahrizat’s dilemma has drawn mixed reaction from the senior ladies. Some are supportive and sympathetic, others feel she has become a burden to the party. She is fortunate that the senior ladies are not the combative type and that only a handful have openly criticised her. But an overwhelming number feel that the NFCorp fiasco has damaged the party on the threshold of a critical general election.
At the same time, many are eager to hear what Najib has to say at what will be one of their last gatherings with Shahrizat before she steps aside as Minister of Women, Family and Community Development on April 8.
While the circle around Shahrizat is still unable to accept her resignation, others are relieved that she is going; they say it will take the pressure off the Government if more allegations come out. The men in UMNO are less forgiving and they feel she should have resigned earlier instead of going down in history as the first sitting minister whose husband was charged with CBT. Some of them wonder if she can play a credible role in Wanita UMNO with the issue still burning hot.
Several UMNO Division chiefs are so fed-up with Shahrizat and her husband Datuk Dr. Salleh Ismail that they have asked their Wanita heads not to attend Friday’s gathering. As a result, the Wanita UMNO headquarters has instructed every division to send at least 40 women each to make up the numbers.
Some of them think the Prime Minister has been too soft on what has happened and in allowing Shahrizat to cling on. Najib has given Shahrizat’s supporters a lot of face and made time for a delegation of Wanita UMNO exco members at his office late last Friday.
As a result, several senior figures in the party have suggested that all appeals on behalf of Shahrizat should cease and that it is time the ladies faced up to the situation and got to work.But Najib is apparently concerned not only about Shahrizat but the overall morale of the women’s wing. The ladies are the key campaign force in any election and he has to consider their feelings. He is trying to use the weight of his personality to engage directly with the senior ladies and draw them around his leadership.
When addressing a stadium full of Wanita UMNO ladies in Johor two weeks ago, he had asked: “Wanita UMNO is very committed and important. I want to ask, if anything happens, will you abandon UMNO, are you still with me?”
He said it three times in three different ways and each time, they gave him a huge affirmation. This Friday will see him elaborating on the theme that the party is bigger than the individual. UMNO officials said Najib has to take matters into his own hands to stop Shahrizat playing the victim card.
“Leaders come and go but the party stays. The point is to save the party from further damage but those around Shahrizat seem to care more about saving her than the party,” said a Wanita UMNO figure from Kuala Lumpur, where the impact of the NFCorp is greatest.
Shahrizat is in a very difficult place at the moment. Last week, as UMNO leaders were still praising her for her impending resignation, she was on the way to court where her husband was charged with several offences.
She looked every bit the sacrificial lamb that her supporters have made her out to be, dressed all in white, with one hand holding on to her eldest son Wan Shahinur Izmir and the other, holding a white Prada handbag.
She is emotionally distraught over her husband’s impending trial and terrified that her children may also face charges. She is hurt that her politician friends have turned out to be fair weather friends and are nowhere to be seen.
But there is also a certain degree of self-denial going on in her camp, which in private, has been lashing out at those whom it thinks are trying to bring Shahrizat down.
“As the No. 1, we must be able to understand the situation and make the right move. If you think you are a problem or obstacle, then you have a duty to make sure that you resolve the problem on your own,” said Kamilia.
The objective of asking Shahrizat to stay on in Wanita UMNO is partly face-saving and partly to present a united front. No one is forcing her to let go of the party post but some said the movement will have to make the best of the situation if she really wants to go.
They said the Wanita UMNO leader is necessary to coordinate and monitor an election campaign. But the UMNO Division heads are the ones who run the campaign machinery and everyone, including the Wanita division heads, takes directions from them. The show, they said, will go on with or without her.
Shahrizat’s adversary Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, made a sharp-tongued comment about getting rid of “bed bugs” but, generally, many in UMNO hope Shahrizat will complete her term as Wanita UMNO leader.