It is not fair if the public perceives a minister's family as profiting from a government project because of his or her position in the cabinet, former minister and Umno Wanita chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said in the High Court today.

She said this when cross-examined by Ranjit Singh, counsel for PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli and PKR Wanita chief Zuraida Kamaruddin, against whom Shahrizat has filed a RM100 million defamation suit.

NONEShahrizat faced a barrage of questions on the bidding for a project by the family of a cabinet minister.

Ranjit laid the ground by saying that the public mostly knew about the controversial National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) as a result of the 2010 Auditor-General's report, in which some adverse comments were made about it.

The former minister agreed that prior to the report, not many people knew that her family got the project. Shahrizat's husband Mohd Salleh Ismail is chairperson of NFC.

Ranjit: Being a minister and senator, would you say that you have to lead an exemplary life?

Shahrizat: Yes.

A family of a minister profiteering from a government project. Would it create a negative impression?

I want to tell...

Ranjit: No, you should answer 'yes' or 'no'.

Shahrizat: I want to explain on this.

Ranjit: Okay, I will rephrase the question. Would you agree that if a family of a minister appears to be profiting from a government project, it would be perceived to be the minister (himself or herself) who is profiteering from the project?

I do not agree.

Would it be fair for the public to perceive a minister as profiting from his or her position if his or her spouse obtains a huge, important government project?

Shahrizat: I don't think it is fair.

In this case, would it be fair for your spouse to bid for the project when you are a minister?

That you have to ask the Agriculture Ministry as his bid did not concern my ministry.

Ranjit: But the public could perceive that you are profiting from it, and in defamation suits, isn't this more about perception?

Shahrizat: I disagree.

High impact project
Asked further questions on the project, Shahrizat agreed that NFC is a high impact project to make Malaysia self-sufficient in the supply of beef.

“At present, the beef is imported from Australia and India,” she said.

Asked by Ranjit what she knew about food security, the former minister said “as the term implies”.

NONEAsked to explain further, she said basically it was to ensure there was sufficient supply of food for the country.

Ranjit then asked Shahrizat, as a former chairperson of two public-listed companies, to relate how she had to act in a trustworthy and transparent manner.

Shahrizat was former chairperson of Island and Peninsular Bhd and of Austral Entreprise Bhd before she contested for the Lembah Pantai parliamentary seat in 1995.

Do you know, being a former chairperson, that you must act with honesty and transparency?

Shahrizat: Yes.

In dealing with companies and with public funds, a company has to act with good corporate governance and transparency?

Shahrizat: Most certainly.

In the BN government, do you agree that its members believe that they must be 100 percent honest and transparent?

Shahrizat: Yes.

Ranjit: Is the BN government stand, in dealing with dishonesty and corruption in abusing public funds, that these are despicable acts?


Video clips played in court

Earlier, in the morning, in proceeding with her defamation suit, Shahrizat viewed and concurred with the video clips shown in court as those linked to her suit on the libel statements made at a press conference at the Parliament lobby sometime in November 2011.

Four clips of the allegedly defamatory statements uttered by Rafizi and Zuraida (picture above), who is also Ampang MP, were screened before judicial commissioner Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera.

However, the video clips and the transcripts were not marked as court exhibits as the maker of the video footage is yet to be called to take the stand.

Rafizi and Zuraida have filed a counter-claim against the RM100 million defamation suit filed by Shahrizat.

The hearing continues on Sept 18.