Bloomberg News

Malaysian Minister Resigns Amid Scandal as Najib Ponders Vote

March 12, 2012

Shahrizat Abdul Jalil will step down as minister for women, family and community development when her term as senator ends on April 8, according to the Star newspaper. Photographer: Sascha Baumann/Getty Images

Shahrizat Abdul Jalil will step down as minister for women, family and community development when her term as senator ends on April 8, according to the Star newspaper. Photographer: Sascha Baumann/Getty Images

A member of Malaysia’s ruling party said she’ll resign from the Cabinet amid a corruption probe against her husband that has opened Prime Minister Najib Razak to criticism as he prepares to call new elections.

Shahrizat Abdul Jalil will step down as minister for women, family and community development when her term as senator ends on April 8, according to the Star newspaper. Authorities are investigating whether her family used part of a 250 million ringgit ($82 million) loan to the National Feedlot Corp. to buy condominiums, according to state-run Bernama.

The allegations are “one of the major issues which Najib needed to resolve before calling the general election,” Ong Kian Ming, a political analyst at UCSI University in Kuala Lumpur, said by phone. “As long as no one is charged and found guilty, it will continue to be a thorn in the side of Najib and the ruling coalition.”

Najib, who must call an election by early 2013, may bring forward the poll as he aims to extend his party’s five-decade grip on power. His approval rating rose to 69 percent last month from 59 percent in August after the government announced cash handouts and vowed to change security laws, according to the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research.

Court Appearance

Shahrizat appeared in court today with her husband, Mohamad Salleh Ismail, who was charged with four counts of criminal breach of trust and violating the Companies Act in relation to more than 49 million ringgit given to the National Feedlot Corp., the Malaysian Insider reported, without saying where it got the information. Mohamad, the company’s executive chairman, pleaded not guilty, the report said.

At least three other government officials have faced corruption charges amid a wider campaign against graft that Najib has pursued since coming to office in 2009.

Shahrizat denied any wrongdoing, Bernama reported. Her press secretary, Eikmar Rizal Mohd Ripin, confirmed in a mobile- phone text message that Shahrizat will resign and declined to give further comment.

Shahrizat, who was first appointed a full minister by then- Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in 2001, said she will remain as the head of the women’s wing of Najib’s United Malays National Organisation, which is Malaysia’s biggest political party, according to the Star report. She was appointed as senator after losing her parliamentary seat in Lembah Pantai in the March 2008 general election.

‘Very Bad’

“It looks very bad for Najib in the sense that people can argue that he talks so much about corruption, but he didn’t even dare to take action against her and waited until her senatorship lapses in April,” James Chin, a professor of political science at the Malaysian campus of Australia’s Monash University outside Kuala Lumpur, said by phone.

Najib described the High Court acquittal of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges in January as proof of the Malaysian judiciary’s independence. Malaysia ranked 60th out of 182 nations last year in Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index, down four places from 2010, when 178 countries were included.

Chan Kong Choy and Ling Liong Sik, two former transport ministers, have been charged following cost overruns at a free- trade zone development, while Mohd Khir Toyo, former chief minister of Malaysia’s Selangor state, was sentenced to one year’s jail for graft in December.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ranjeetha Pakiam in Kuala Lumpur at rpakiam@bloomberg.net; Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok at dtenkate@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

Shahrizat Abdul Jalil will step down as minister for women, family and community development when her term as senator ends on April 8, according to the Star newspaper. Photographer: Sascha Baumann/Getty Images March 12 (Bloomberg) -- Former Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi talks about current premier Najib Razak, who is required to call an election by early 2013, and key issues ahead of the vote. Abdullah also discusses the acquittal of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of sodomy charges. He spoke with Bloomberg Television's Rishaad Salamat on March 6 in Seoul. (Source: Bloomberg)

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