The wife

Tay Tian Yan, My Sinchew

Shahrizat has said, “I’ve nothing to do with the NFC. I am only the NFC boss’ wife. Like any other women, I have my own husband and family.”

In other words, even though there is any problem with the NFC, it is Mohamad Salleh’s problem, not hers.

An anaemic excuse that does not seem to hold where political ethics is concerned.

If Shahrizat were a full-time housewife cooking meals for her family and attending to her kids at home, or an ordinary employee at a private company, I would agree fully to what she’s said.

But she is not. She is a key leader in the ruling coalition, a Cabinet minister with enough power to influence government policies.

Sure enough Shahrizat is entitled to her own husband and family, like any other women in this country. But as politicians with some power in hand, she simply cannot hide behind her feminity shield.

I’ve seen a completely opposite behaviour in a separate incident.

The Securities Commission chairman Zarinah Anwar is said to quit her job soon.

The first ever female chairman of the SC, Zarinah has all this while basked on her exceptional public image and job ratings. However, her identity has put her in the centre of controversy over a recent transaction in the market.

Her husband Azizan Abd Rahman is the chairman of public-listed E&O. Before Sime Darby’s acquisition of E&O shares was made public, Azizan was already buying up shares in E&O.

Such an act could constitute an insider trading and is in violation of the securities laws.

Sime later acquired 30% of E&O shares. While the purchase was short of the 33% threshold that triggers a mandatory buy, if the equity along with that of its partners exceeds the mark, it could trigger a mandatory general offer for the remaining E&O shares.

This is a grey area and everyone has his own definition of “partnership,” so the SC would have to make a verdict.

After the vetting procedures (Zarinah was not on the review panel due to her identity), the SC decided that the purchase had not given rise to a mandatory offer obligation.

The decision prompted some minority shareholders to take the SC to court.

Zarinah did not say anything like this: “I have nothing to do with the deal. I am only the E&O chairman’s wife. Like any other women, I …”

In this whole thing, Zarinah’s principal identity is the chairman of the Securities Commission, not Azizan’s wife.

Zarinah is well aware of where she stands, and the best option for her is to quit her job, whether she is actually involved in the deal or not.

Both Shahrizat and Zarinah are married women, but where the public sector is concerned, their primary identities are their public offices, namely Cabinet minister and SC chairman respectively.

They have the power in hand and could potentially influence policies and decisions owing to their public offices. As such, they are not in any position to avert their liabilities just because they are only the wives of those directly involved.

Zarinah is well aware of this philosophy. How about Shahrizat?