Monday 6 August 2012

Shahrizat’s evasiveness hurt own repute, says Rafizi

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 6 ― Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil’s delay in acknowledging her ties to the chairman of the National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp) was what influenced public perception of the national cattle farming scandal rather than PKR’s exposé, the opposition party’s strategy chief said today.

Rafizi Ramli and PKR Wanita chief Zuraida Kamaruddin had both led the charge in alleging NFCorp ― run by the former minister’s husband and three chidren ― of abusing a RM250 million federal cattle farming loan and are being sued for defamation.

The National Feedlot Centre (NFC) had been highlighted in the Auditor-General’s 2010 Report for failing to meet production targets, which drove PKR to carry out its own investigation into the farming project.

“I think the inability of NFC and Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil to be straightforward from the start is more responsible for the public perception rather than our acts,” Rafizi told reporters outside the courtroom after the hearing.

Shahrizat is suing Rafizi and Zuraida for RM100 million in damages for allegedly defaming her by harping on her relationship to NFCorp’s chairman, Datuk Seri Mohamad Salleh Ismail.

Mohamad Salleh is the Wanita Umno chief’s husband who was awarded the lucrative government contract to operate the NFC.

Rafizi said that Shahrizat’s testimony had given the impression “as if only one (or) two statements that we made had influenced the whole mood and perception of the people about this case.”

Today is the first day of the defamation suit filed by Shahrizat against Rafizi and PKR Wanita chief Zuraida Kamaruddin over the NFC scandal.

The hearing before High Court judge Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera will resume this Friday at 10am.

Rafizi had previously said that although he had repeatedly raised the question of conflict of interest in the award of the NFC project to Mohamad Salleh’s company when Shahrizat was still in the Cabinet, it was only the NFCorp chairman who was charged in court with wrongdoing.

On May 12, Mohamad Salleh pleaded not guilty in the Sessions Court to two counts of criminal breach of trust involving RM49.7 million in NFC funds with regards to the purchase of two condominium units.

Last week, Rafizi, who has been at the forefront of the exposé on the scandal, was charged together with a former Public Bank clerk under the Banking and Financial Institutions Act (BAFIA) for disclosing banking documents related to NFCorp.

Both of them could be fined a maximum of RM3 million or be jailed up to three years if found guilty.

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