KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 6 ― The RM100 million defence building scandal linked to Selangor Wanita Umno’s chief is a “personal matter” and will not jeopardise Barisan Nasional’s (BN) chances in Election 2013, the party wing’s leaders maintain.
Division leaders distanced the women’s wing ― touted to be the backbone of Umno, the main party of the 13-member BN ― from the latest scorcher engulfing its top leadership, which analysts have said are hurting the ruling coalition’s support in the run-up to the 13th general elections.
“Anything you do on a personal basis will not affect the party,” Gombak Wanita Umno chief Datin Sharifah Salmah Syed Agil told The Malaysian Insider yesterday.
The latest controversy involved a lucrative land deal for a defence studies facility that has yet to be built by state party leader, Senator Datuk Raja Ropiaah Abdullah’s firm, nearly a year after the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) scandal cost Wanita Umno chief Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil her senatorship and a Cabinet post.
Sharifah Salmah insisted that the Raja Ropiaah issue was a “personal” matter that would not dent the wing’s support and should be left to the courts to decide, as the issue is currently based only on news reports and public speculation.
“Voters will vote for party, not (the) individual,” Radziah Ahmad said.
The Shah Alam Wanita Umno chief shared Sharifah Salmah’s view, saying the matter involving Raja Ropiaah has not been decided in the courts.
She said that even if the courts had ruled on the issue, it would be “very personal” and “doesn’t involve the party.”
She added that Wanita Umno members will continue to work the party machinery in preparation for polls.
“We are working for party (BN), not working for individual,” Radziah said.
Kapar Wanita Umno chief Norliza Ahmad told The Malaysian Insider that the grassroots do not “evaluate from an individual viewpoint”, and suggested that voters will weigh the party’s overall effort instead of a single member’s performance.
“For me, all that is individual problems. Whatever happens, we Wanita Umno at the lower level will continue to work.
“For now, the Wanita works from house to house, and we know who will vote (for us),” she said, referring to the house visits that the women’s wing has been carrying out in preparation for the polls that will be called in the next few months.
Raja Ropiaah’s firm, Awan Megah Sdn Bhd, was recently involved in a court case over a series of transactions involving parcels of land in Bukit Raja linked to a government project to build the RM100 million National Defence Education Centre (Puspahanas). Although the legal suit against the Selangor Wanita Umno chief’s company was subsequently withdrawn and the much-disputed land sold to Boustead Holdings Bhd (BHB), it is unclear if the Puspahanas project has been completed.
Since late 2011, the spotlight has been on Shahrizat, who kept her posts as national Wanita Umno chief and head of BN Wanita despite a scandal in which the former minister’s family was alleged to have misused a RM250 million federal loan for a cattle-rearing project.
Shahrizat had last September highlighted Wanita Umno’s importance, saying that it should not be considered a mere “wing” but should be raised to the status of backbone of the party and BN.
She had pointed out that Wanita Umno was responsible for its members’ and monetary contribution towards the party’s election machinery.
Wanita Umno is one of the party’s strongest wings and has had a wide influence with women, especially in rural areas. But a shift in demographics pushed Umno to set up the Puteri Umno wing in the 1990s, in efforts to attract young women and professionals working in urban places.
The Election 2013 is expected to be a tight contest between BN and its political rival Pakatan Rakyat (PR).