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rafizi

“When exposing a crime is treated as committing a crime, you are ruled by criminals.” ~ Anonymous

It was a rude reminder of the times we live in: Rafizi Ramli, Member of Parliament and PKR Vice-President together with bank clerk Johari Mohammad were sentenced last week to 30 months in prison for leaking details relating to the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal.

They are now out on bail pending appeal.

Improper conduct

NFC, a poorly conceived government-funded initiative to help the nation attain self-sufficiency in beef-production, became mired in allegations of nepotism, mismanagement and misappropriation of funds. In his 2010 report, the Auditor-General drew attention to “improper conduct” at the NFC which was funded by a RM250 million soft loan from the government.

Rafizi followed up with further startling allegations based on leaked bank records.

In March 2012, the CEO of NFC, Dr Mohammad Salleh Ismail (husband of then UMNO minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil) was charged with four counts of misappropriating RM49.7 million from NFC. He was later acquitted of all charges.

The end result: millions in public funds remain unaccounted for and no one has been held liable. Pretty much par for the course these days.

Following the outcry over the scandal, Sharizat resigned her ministerial post. With the support of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, she continues to thrive in politics as head of Wanita UMNO. In 2016 she was bestowed one of the nation’s highest honours (PSM) which carries the tittle ‘Tan Sri.’ She is expected to contest a safe seat in the upcoming general election and might well return to cabinet.

Adding insult to injury

When all is said and done about this case, when you cut through the legalities and political spin, what is left is simply the inescapable conclusion that the justice system has failed us once again. They can finesse the facts and garnish the truth but the stench of it will long endure.

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Shahrizat (photo above) now insists that she and her family were the real victims of the whole affair because they were subjected to “half-baked stories [that were used] to manipulate the people regarding the case.” She and her husband also claim, rather disingenuously, that it was all the negative publicity surrounding NFC that caused the project to fail.

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

It is also laughable that she blames Rafizi for all her problems and makes it out to be a political attack against her and her family when it was in fact the Auditor-General who first drew attention to irregularities in NFC. And it was the police who filed criminal charges against her husband, presumably because they had reason to believe that a crime had been committed.

Standing with Rafizi

Rafizi may well end up in prison and his days as a member of parliament may be over but he will always remain a hero to the public. He modelled for the nation what a member of parliament ought to be – selfless, courageous and principled. If only more of our public officials were like him….

We may not be able to do anything about the sentence but there is much that we can do to ensure that both Rafizi and Johari are not abandoned or forgotten. They stood for us; we must now stand for them and let them know that we value their sacrifice and service. If they go to jail, we must do our part to help their families.

And we must use the power of our citizenship to vote against those who abuse our trust.

Make no mistake, when those who expose abuse are jailed and scoundrels go free (as so many have over the years), our democracy is diminished and tyranny empowered. To stay silent, to do nothing in the face of such injustice, is to become accomplices to our own oppression.

Dennis Ignatius | Kuala Lumpur | 12th February 2018

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