The infamous “It’s A Bird … It’s A Plane … It’s Superman” tag, referring to the superhero who wears his red underwear outside, is here again. However, since this is a Malaysian version, the superhero’s adventure would undergo a total re-engineering. It would be a blockbuster. It could even wake Christopher Reeve up from his grave. It would most likely thriller than Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Of course the new superhero is Shahrizat (instead of Superman), Minister of Women, Family and Community Development.
The National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal couldn’t come at a better time when PM Najib Razak was getting ready to call a snap election. Shahrizat was supposed to be Najib’s “Iron Lady Minister”, the same way Rafidah was during Mahathir’s premiership. Unfortunately unlike Rafidah who didn’t lose her seat to become a minister, Shahrizat lost hers and has to be made a Senator to become a back-door Minister. Also, unlike Rafidah who wisely invested most of her “wealth” overseas, particularly in United Kingdom, Shahrizat thought it was a magnificent idea to invest in a RM10 million luxury condo in upmarket Bangsar.
National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) was suposed to be a High Impact Project under Ninth Malaysia Plan with the objective of attaining 40% self sufficiency for beef production by 2010. But going by the scandal revelations, it seems someone has hijacked the RM250 million (soft-loan) project to become the person’s own self sufficiency agenda. It was revealed that the original plan from Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Ministry was to spend RM6.37 million to breed 9,000 cattles with about 28% returns annually. But that plan took three years instead and with an explosive spending – RM141 million to rear only 8,000 cattles.
Instead of supplying the beef nationwide, it was revealed that Shahrizat family’s own fine-dining restaurants – Meatworks, Senor Santos and Brawns – received some 20 cattle from NFC. It was amusing to read how Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Noh Omar defended the project as a success despite the 2010 Auditor-General’s Report calling it “a mess”. Noh Omar must have taken the convenient way out that as long as there’re couple of thousands of cattle around, the actual proposal can be thrown out of the windows.
To add spices, opposition PKR also alleged that over RM84 million was siphoned off from NFC to companies controlled by Shahrizat’s husband Mohamad Salleh Ismail and her children Izran Mohamad Salleh and Izmir Mohamad Salleh. Of course the final straw that broke the camel’s back came with the revelation that NFC money (public’s fund) was used (by sister company National Livestock and Meats Corporation, NLMC) to purchase RM9.8 million condo at One Menerung, Bangsar, prompting jokes that Malaysian cows are more precious than Japanese’s famous Wagyu cattle which produces the legendary Kobe beef, simply because Malaysian cows stay in luxury condo with its own swimming pool.
Obviously you don’t have to become a rocket scientist to conclude that there’re irregularities in this scandal. Shahrizat was speechless and only managed to respond that she has work hard too and hence deserve to get some government project. But the fact that her whole family is sucking the public’s RM250 million money from NFC (via Shahrizat’s Agroscience Industries Sdn Bhd) up to her purchase of the RM10 million condo shows the whole (business) transaction cycles are contaminated with element of corruption. OK, now that MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) found the condo issue was be too hot to handle and passed the ball to police, there could be criminal breach of trust, no?
But the condo purchase was a strategic investment, argued Khairy, another Prime Minister wannabe who doesn’t have any minister portfolio despite being the UMNO Youth Chief. By defending Shahrizat, Khairy was hoping the Minister of Women, Family and Community Development could whisper to PM Najib to shortlist his name for the coming general election. Nonetheless the justification was weak because it’s a well-known fact that property is one of the most illiquid investment instruments. While you can buy and sell shares or stocks with a button, you can’t do so with real property. Heck, the way Malaysian politicians are plundering taxpayer’s money makes even Tajima cattle scrambling to migrate to Malaysia from Hyogo Prefecture.
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