This will be the lesson that Umno and Barisan Nasional will learn in the 13th general election.
The Pakatan Rakyat has done a gutsy and commendable job in bringing the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) findings to the forefront.
Wanita Umno chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s husband Mohd Salleh Ismail’s dealings have been a common gossip among a small circle but it was PKR’s strategy director Rafizi Ramli that crystallised the outrage, presented relevated documents and made it a topic of household discussion.
Rafizi’s move led to an investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on Shahrizat. But MACC cleared her as it found “there was no case against her”.
Demanding an independent investigation into Shahrizat is futile. Afterall this was about friendships. It is not illegal to have friends. It is also not illegal to help a friend.
In Shahrizat’s husband case, he made a friend in business-consultant Shamsulbahrin Ismail. Shamsulbahrin was supposed to help “settle” the case.
That’s all the paper trail may reveal, despite exhaustive investigations.
The fact is when powerful people help each other, they keep the paper trail sacrosanct. Expensive lawyers work hard to ensure the deals have a semblance of legality, whatever the intent.
Proximity and access to Umno are of huge value.
If NFC ‘seniors’ were seen hanging out with the then prime minister and his son-in-law, it is seen as “acceptance”.
As such would it not be natural for the then Minister of Agriculture and the Menteri Besar of Negeri Sembilan to view favourably NFC’s many request.
Neither NFC, Shahrizat’s family, the Minister of Agriculture nor the Negeri Sembilan government may ever sit down and spell out how each will help the other.
They don’t need to because they are friends. Friends held each other. There’s nothing illegal about it, right?
In fact, this lack of, or hard to prove illegality, is the cornerstone of the defence put forward by the Umnos’ army of spokespersons and eager-beaver sycophants.
‘It’s a private matter’ or ‘prove give and take’ or ‘prove abuse of power’ are often the arguments given.
It is hard to fault them completely, for the legal bases are probably well covered, or at least very difficult to prove otherwise.
Yet what happened is ethically wrong.
Politicians work for the benefit of common people, not for their family, not for their friends, business partners and relatives.
At least that is the assumption the people had about politicians.
People also assumed that they believed in simplicity and were above personal greed, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case.
What is the use of wearing a simple baju kurung, implying simplicity, when your family members are accumulating hundreds of millions by exploiting political power?
There will be a huge price Umno and Barisan National will pay for this. The cost will also be in terms of reputation and esteem.
Selvaraja Somiah is a geologist and freelance writer. He blogs at selvarajasomiah.wordpress.com