KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 — Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil moved to unite Wanita Umno this evening, insisting she is not disappointed by her vice chief’s call for her to step down after being linked to the RM250 million National Feedlot Centre (NFC) scandal.
The Wanita Umno chief told reporters she hoped her relationship with Datuk Kamilia Ibrahim would be good as “she is like a big sister to me”.
“It’s not a big deal. I am not disappointed at all. It came from an elder so I accept it,” the women, family and community development minister said.
Although Shahrizat announced on March 11 she would step down as women, family and community development minister when her senatorship ends on April 8, the veteran politician said she would continue to lead the 1.3-million strong wing.
The announcement came after more than four months of being dogged by allegations she and her family had abused a RM250 million federal loan meant for the cattle farming project to finance personal expenses.
Her husband Datuk Seri Mohamad Salleh Ismail, who owns the National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp) with their three children, pleaded not guilty on March 12 to criminal breach of trust and offences under the Companies Act in relation to RM49 million in public funds.
Kamilia had said earlier this week the public felt something was “morally and politically wrong” with how the National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp) was run and this was affecting preparations for a general election that must be called by May next year.
“People are poking fun at Wanita and calling us ‘cows’. The Wanita grassroots are saying it’s difficult to work (for the general election)... As a leader, we have to listen to what the grassroots are saying,” she was quoted as saying.
But the Kuala Kangsar Umno chief said today she would cooperate with Shahrizat despite insisting her statement was a reflection of grassroots sentiment.
Both leaders held press conferences after a closed-door session between Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak and several thousand from the ruling party’s women’s wing.
The event turned into a show of strength for the embattled women, family and community development minister as those wielding placards and banners outside the meeting hall were fulsome in their calls for Shahrizat to continue leading the 1.3 million-strong wing and representing it in Cabinet.
Shahrizat also said today Wanita Umno would not be weakened by the NFC controversy as “in my 30 years in Umno I have never seen such a gigantic gathering.”
“When I go to the ground, even to opposition areas up to now, I get good reception and the support is as strong as always.”