Still a force to be reckoned with


The NFCorp controversy and the public condemnation that came with it could not help but contribute to the end of Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s ministerial career, but as Wanita Umno head, none can touch her.

Joceline Tan, The Star 

IT was no coincidence that the Prime Minister and Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil wore matching purple outfits in Temerloh last weekend.

It is the colour of the Women, Family and Community Develop-ment Ministry, which Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will be taking over from today.

Shahrizat’s term as a minister and senator ended after much drama and commentary over the NFCorp controversy.

Today, Datuk Raja Ropiah Raja Abdullah, who is the Selangor Wanita Umno chief, will be sworn in as senator.

It is not the best way one’s career should end, and Shahrizat said in a newspaper interview that she was leaving her heart at the ministry.

She has proven to be the proverbial “steel magnolia” – soft petals on the outside and tough as steel inside.

Anyone watching her in Temerloh would not have suspected what she has gone through in recent months or how heavy her heart must be.

She wore her megawatt smile throughout the afternoon and made a fiery speech about how hard the womenfolk had worked to make the event a success.

Her speeches used to be demure and soft but she has gone into combat mode of late.

Everyone expected her to make some sort of a “farewell speech”, but she did not.

The fact would have passed unspoken had not the incoming minister aka Prime Minister taking it upon himself to thank her on behalf of the Government.

Shahrizat’s speech that afternoon was about the ministry’s achievements.

Under her, it has been a trailblazer on women and social issues, and it is something which even the scandalous allegations over the NFCorp cannot take away from her.

From today, her focus will be on her role as Wanita Umno leader and she has made it very clear that she is in charge and will set the agenda for the wing even without a Cabinet post.

She has also turned to her religion in her moment of need and she attended a Quran recital event on Sunday.

The allegations made about the NFCorp have damaged her too much; public opinion is against her, and it has spilled over onto Umno. She has become a liability to her party.

Some have even questioned if Shahrizat can still be an effective leader of the women’s wing.

If the NFCorp issue tainted her standing as a minister, would it not have the same effect on her status as Wanita Umno leader?

That was what prompted Wanita Umno No.2 Datuk Kamilia Ibrahim to make that brash call for Shahrizat to resign as Wanita Umno chief.

But Shahrizat proved she is still a force to be reckoned with in Wanita Umno when the senior ladies turned out in full force to show their support for her a fortnight ago.

They filled three big halls to overflowing and it was not just the numbers but the outpouring of emotion that stunned the Umno men.

The women were clapping at everything that was said, a few were openly crying and some were shouting in rather unladylike manner.

For the pragmatists in Umno, it was living proof that Umno has, in them, an election campaign machinery that is more powerful, organised and extensive than any other political party in the country.

They believe that the women are among their most faithful grassroots.

Public opinion is against Shahrizat, but the women’s wing is still a strong entity. The Wanita Umno show of force was the high point at the lowest point of her career.

Her position as Wanita Umno chief is no longer in question and in public at least she has been magnanimous towards Kamilia, describing her as “my sister” and insisting that she has no ill feelings towards her No.2.

Umno blogger Zakhir Mohamed, better known as “Bigdog” and who is critical of the NFCorp issue, said the caravan has to move on from Shahrizat and her family’s problems.

The Prime Minister has rung the opening bell for the general election and the Johor-born Zakhir, who was in Batu Pahat when the Prime Minister visited on Saturday, noted how the atmosphere has become more intense.

Najib is somewhere or other every weekend and, in Batu Pahat, there was no red carpet or special seats for the VIPs.

Down-to-earth was the operative word and everyone was standing when the Prime Minister was speaking.

A number of the ministers and VIPs did their own walkabouts before Najib arrived.

The Shahrizat issue had two hot fuses – one was public opinion and the other was about how to jaga hati or not hurt the feelings of the Wanita Umno ladies.

Dropping her from the Cabinet was to heed public opinion and keeping her on as Wanita Umno chief was to assuage the ladies.

With that behind him, Najib is gearing up for the big battle.