07 February 2023

Muhyiddin’s new plan to seize power...

Brings back “Cow-Condo Scandal” 
protégé Shahrizat as UMNO women chief...

After failing to form a government, as well as several half-baked political coups similar to 2020’s “Sheraton Move” that had gone awry, opposition Perikatan Nasional chairman Muhyiddin Yassin’s attention now shifts to the upcoming UMNO party election. By hook or by crook, he has to control two-thirds of the rival UMNO supreme council in order to escape any charges of money laundering.

Former PM Muhyiddin could join Najib Razak in prison if he fails to topple 10th Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. Former PM Najib is currently serving 12-year jail sentence in Kajang Prison for stealing RM42 million of SRC International money. Muhyiddin is rushing against time as he could be charged soon in the RM92.5 billion corruption scandal involving Covid-19 stimulus programme.

Only by controlling the United Malays National Organization’s (UMNO) Supreme Council can power-hungry Mahiaddin (Muhyiddin) topple UMNO president Zahid Hamidi and his deputy “Tok Mat” Mohamad Hasan. Zahid was the biggest stumbling block in Perikatan Nasional forming a new government after the Nov 2022 General Election that produced a hung parliament.

Under Zahid leadership, the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional’s 30 MPs, without which neither Anwar-led Pakatan Harapan (82 MPs) nor Muhyiddin-led Perikatan Nasional (74 MPs) could form any government, has chosen to partner with Pakatan coalition to form the current unity government in the 222-seat Parliament. Hence, a leadership change in UMNO is the secret recipe to seize power.

In order to sack Zahid (or Tok Mat), along with members of pro-Zahid Supreme Council, Article 9.12 of the UMNO Constitution says it requires the support of two-thirds of delegates at an EGM (extraordinary general meeting) of the Malay nationalist party. However, it’s impossible that Zahid, who has just been appointed Deputy Prime Minister, will call for an EGM to sack himself.

The second method to trigger an UMNO EGM is through a request by at least half of UMNO’s 191 divisions. This will not work too because a total of 140 division chiefs has expressed solidarity for the president post not to be contested in the UMNO elections, which began in stages on Feb 1 and will end on March 18. The third option – a written request from two-thirds of the UMNO supreme council.

Mohamad Hasan and  Zahid Hamidi

If the UMNO presidency falls vacant, the deputy president will take over until the next party elections. If the acting president steps down, then the supreme council must appoint one of the three vice-presidents to hold the post. This is why UMNO deputy Mohamad Hasan was rewarded with Defence Minister as an insurance in case Zahid is convicted of his ongoing 47 corruption charges.

This is also why there are rumours that former PM Ismail Sabri, who is one of three vice-presidents, could be suspended for betraying the party by supporting enemy Bersatu president Muhyiddin as the prime minister post-15th General Election. Already, Khairy Jamaluddin is sacked from UMNO while Hishammuddin Hussein has been suspended for 6 years.

Khairy and Hishammuddin were two greatest threats to Zahid’s grip on power. With both eliminated from challenging Zahid for the presidency or the three vice-presidents posts, it also means PM Anwar could govern uninterrupted. And it’s the same reason why Muhyiddin’s plan includes the sacking of the UMNO deputy president upon controlling the party’s supreme council.

While Zahid is preparing his loyalists to win all the three vice-president posts, there are still some risks. Powerful warlord like Johari Abdul Ghani, who controls the news media through Media Prima – which owns TV stations like TV3 and newspapers like New Straits Times, Berita Harian, Harian Metro, Sin Chew Daily and Guang Ming Daily, as well as portal “Free Malaysia Today” – could emerge as one of UMNO vice-presidents.

Underdog like Johari could become UMNO president if he agrees to switch sides and withdraws UMNO’s support for Pakatan Harapan in the event Muhyiddin succeeded in controlling the party’s supreme council. This explains why the opposition panicked after Muhyiddin’s party – Bersatu – saw its accounts frozen for money laundering activities linked to the Covid-19 stimulus programme.

It’s not a walk in the park to control the supreme council. As Zahid has boldly and decisively executed the exercise to clean up the party of traitors, saboteurs and provocateurs, ex-PM Muhyiddin makes his move by testing the water by bringing back loyalists like former Wanita UMNO (Women Chief) leader Shahrizat Jalil, his former protégé involved in the infamous Cow-Condo scandal.

NFCorp Cowgate Scandal - Shahrizat Jalil & husband

UMNO Kota Melaka chief Haryaty Hamdza raised eyebrows with dubious claims that as many as 147 Wanita UMNO division chiefs nationwide are calling for Shahrizat Abdul Jalil to return to politics and lead the party’s women’s wing again. The hilarious story was that the corrupt Shahrizat had left behind a legacy and reputation that are still admired even after she retired from politics.

Current UMNO Women Chief, Noraini Ahmad, a pro-Zahid party leader who is also the former higher education minister, has been accused as a weak leader and does not inspire confidence. Shahrizat, who led the women’s wing from 2008 to 2018, is being promoted as part of the propaganda as a fighter who is so impressive that UMNO grassroots could not live without her.

The Wanita UMNO Chief is one of the party supreme council members. More importantly, she could influence the entire women’s wing to revolt against party president Zahid Hamidi. However, there’s one huge problem with Shahrizat – the people still remember vividly her Cowgate scandal, where she and her family members siphoned RM250 million of taxpayers’ money meant for National Feedlot Corporation (NFC).

The NFC or NFCorp began in 2006 when AISB (Agro-based Industry contracted Agroscience Industries Sdn Bhd) was contracted by the Ministry of Agriculture to develop an integrated livestock farming and beef production facility. The objective was to boost and achieve nation’s beef self-sufficiency. AISB then sets up NFC, which was awarded the project on 27 October 2006.

On 6 December 2007, NFCorp was given a RM250 million, 2%-interest, soft loan to start the noble project. By February 2008, NFCorp imported 904 cattle for the project. But on top of the RM250 million easy loans, the government had spent RM48.71 million to develop the project between 2007 and 2010. In addition, the government had also given a RM13 million launching grant to NFCorp.

So, the project had actually taken up RM311.71 million of taxpayer’s money before even a single cow could be produced. But that was just the beginning of the “Cowgate” scandal after the project was awarded to the family of Shahrizat Abdul Jalil in 2006, who was then the Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, as well as the UMNO Women Chief.

As NFCorp Chairman, Mohammad Salleh Ismail,Shahrizat’s husband paid himself RM100,000 monthly salary. His 31-year-old son Izmir Salleh was paid RM45,000 monthly as executive director. Another son Izran Salleh, 27, commanded RM35,000 a month as CEO while 25-year-old daughter Izzanah Salleh was paid RM35,000 as a director. The family was paid a total sum of RM215,000 every month.

In 2011, the NFCorp exploded into a full-blown scandal after the Auditor-General’s Report’s highlighted that the RM74 million centre in Gemas, Negri Sembilan only achieved 3,289 heads of cattle, when there should be 8,000 cows – suggesting that close to “60% of cows were missing”. Shahrizat’s husband denied that the project was in a mess, insisting his family was on track to produce 60,000 cows by 2015.

Even Shahrizat’s son admitted in Nov 2011 that the family had used nearly RM600,000 of the NFCorp funds to pay for credit card expenses, but argued that they were used for “business development purposes”. Later, it was exposed that at least RM62 million was spent by the despicable family members on, among other things, several up-scale apartments in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

NFCorp fund was diverted to purchase two plots of lands (RM3.3 million), a RM534,622 Mercedes Benz CLS 350 CGI, three fine-dining restaurants (Meatworks, Senor Santos and Brawns Steakhouse), 2 units of “One Menerung” luxury condominium at Bangsar (RM6.9 million each), a RM9.9 million luxury condo at Orchard Scotts and two condos at Marina Bay Financial Center suites costing RM34.6 million.

In fact, Shahrizat herself admitted that NFCorp transferred over RM500,000 to Meatworks (Singapore) Private Limited, which was owned by her family, to buy a condominium in Singapore. The Marina Bay luxury suites were bought under the names of NFCorp Chairman Mohamed Salleh Ismail and his son, Wan Shahinur Izran Salleh.

However, despite overwhelming evidence of criminal breach of trust (CBT), money laundering and abuse of power, although amusingly, Shahrizat claimed she had nothing to do with how the NFC got the RM250 million soft loan while she was a member of the Cabinet. Heck, she even claimed that she and her husband had never talked about NFCorp, although they slept together.

Eventually, Mohamad Salleh was charged in March 2012 with two counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT) involving RM49.7 million of the company’s funds. However, as expected, he was acquitted in November 2015 of the charges. Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court judge Norsharidah Awang granted Salleh the acquittal after lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah “met in her chambers”.

Surprisingly, the judge did not give any reason for her decision. Shafee Abdullah was the same so-called hotshot lawyer who represented Najib Razak – and failed – to defend the former premier, leading to the crook being jailed for 12 years. Shafee is now spinning and twisting facts in his attempts to free his client with laughable claims that Najib did not get a fair trial in his appeal in the Federal Court.

Coincidentally, it was former Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali, who had consented to grant the husband of Shahrizat Abdul Jalil a discharge not amounting to an acquittal. Mr. Apandi was the same disgraced A.G. who was appointed by Najib to clear him of any wrongdoing with regard to RM2.6 billion (US$681 million) of money stolen from 1MDB fund.

Very few knew that Muhyiddin was the Agriculture Minister who approved the dubious RM250 million loans to Minister Shahrizat Jalil on Oct 27, 2006 for the National Feedlot Corporation that eventually exploded as one of Malaysia’s most scandalous projects. In Nov 2022, days before the national election, there were reports that a negotiation for an out-of-court settlement was hatched.

If opposition Perikatan Nasional seizes power once again, the settlement between the government and NFC could see little chance that the people could recover much of the RM250 million plundered by the crooks, let alone chance to jail any family members of Shahrizat. Worse, she could – with Muhyiddin’s blessing – start yet another mega project. - FT

"I am in great shape” says PM Anwar after his sudden visit to national heart institute IJN yesterday created concerns adding that he’s expected to work harder now that the doctor has given him a clean bill of health. - melgoh

Nothing wrong in doing 
pro bono work for govt...

“If they know a new government is being formed, with Umno in, ‘Why don’t you (Umno MPs) join in now, why don’t you join us now, rather than you join later?’ I think if we did that, a majority will leave Umno (with just) 10-20 (MPs), with just Najib (Abdul Razak) and his people (left behind). Especially if there are positions. If not a minister, then chairperson of a GLC.”

These infamous words were the transcript of an audio recording that surfaced after the backdoor government was formed in 2020.The voice of the man uttering these words resembled that of former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin who led MPs in ousting the Pakatan Harapan government.

Although the recording made its rounds at that time, he has not denied making the statement. But all MPs joined in supporting him, and his government found themselves in various positions ensuring additional income in addition to parliamentary allowances.

While the debate rages on the appointment of current prime minister Anwar Ibrahim’s daughter Nurul Izzah as a special adviser, it is noteworthy to go back to the past. Having taken the stand that there would be no longer political appointees to government agencies, Anwar is now getting flak with charges of nepotism, but his daughter’s services come gratis - free of charge.

Many have asked how she was chosen especially since she has neither the qualifications nor the experience in finance. Among them are former ministers and political leaders who were previously instrumental in enriching their colleagues in the party.

Did anyone raise an eyebrow when former ministers (including the wife of a minister) were appointed as ambassadors many years ago? While there are so many career diplomats, what special qualifications did they have to merit their appointments?

After the 14th general election, the “council of elders” selected heads of government agencies based on merit and experience. But in 2000, they were unceremoniously removed by the backdoor government to make way for cronies.

If one reads the annual reports of GLCs and government agencies, one would not have missed noticing the number of “not so qualified” people on boards of some of these companies and agencies.

People who are appointed to agencies must have some knowledge of their operations. For example, people who do not know which is the port side or the starboard of a ship should have no business serving in agencies supervising port operations.

Past experience

Before I proceed, let me declare that I, too, had offered to do pro bono work for the government.

In 2008, the Tourism Ministry commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers to prepare a special report on one of its companies - Pempena Sdn Bhd. It was a catalogue of shame because many of its subsidiaries were bleeding.

In 2011, I was posted as The Sun's correspondent in London. I wrote to Pempena, requesting to be appointed as a director of the Awana Chelsea Restaurant (which it owned) after having done research into why it had incurred losses running into millions of ringgit.

The restaurant was then managed by a Malaysian-born and the company secretary was his Singapore-born wife. I conducted searches at the Companies House – the equivalent of the Companies Commission of Malaysia and discovered that two Malaysians were on the board – a Malaysian lawyer and his brother-in-law - appointed by the minister.

There were no records of meetings or approvals. Like Nurul Izzah, I too did not have qualifications or experience, but I have a law degree and I know how to read accounts, identify problematic areas and offer solutions. At that time, I had 40 years of experience in journalism and spent a good part of my career doing investigative journalism.

Hence, I wrote to Pempena: “I am willing to once again, in the interest of the country, offer my services, not to manage the restaurant, but to safeguard the government’s investments and see how the bleeding of the restaurant can be stopped.

“Let me assure you that I don’t want a sen or penny, and not even a free meal at the restaurant. I will be the majority shareholders’ eyes and ears. That’s all.” My offer was spurned by the board and that of Tourism Malaysia for reasons better known to them. The restaurant was subsequently sold with another RM15 million down the drain.

If people volunteer their services and ask for nothing in return, what’s the beef of the critics of Nurul Izzah’s appointment? Unlike the Muhyiddin appointees who were highly paid (some up to RM30,000 a month), Nurul Izzah costs nothing to the government.

Anwar would not have appointed her if she did not have the capability of handling the responsibilities in that role. Like Nurul Izzah and I, there are hundreds of Malaysians who have knowledge and experience in their respective areas.

Anwar and the government must tap their resources in enhancing the government machinery and its workings. But do choose them on merit – not because they or members of their family have done favours or made donations to the party. - R.Nadeswaran,mk


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