By Shannon Teoh
KUALA LUMPUR, March 21 — Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia clarified in Dewan Rakyat today that only matters specific to criminal charges brought against National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp) chairman Datuk Seri Mohamad Salleh Ismail were subjudice.
This comes after the Dewan Rakyat Speaker had last week disallowed an emergency motion to discuss the alleged abuse of a RM250 million federal loan by Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s family, who own the company.
“Only issues specific to the charges are subjudice. But you can raise it (the NFC) generally in your speeches,” Pandikar said in reply to query by Tumpat MP Datuk Kamaruddin Jaafar.
The former PAS secretary general, who is also a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) member, then rushed off to join the panel’s ongoing emergency meeting to deliberate the Speaker’s “advice” to drop its inquiry on the scandal.
The Malaysian Insider understands the PAC is holding an emergency meeting now to deliberate the Dewan Rakyat Speaker’s orders which come just a day after Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s family, who own the company, refused to face the committee.
“Speaker says to ‘stop’ inquiry on NFC as per his decision that it is sub judice,” a source said in a short text message.
Mohamad Salleh was charged on March 12 in the Sessions Court here with criminal breach of trust (CBT) and violating the Companies Act in relation to RM49 million in federal funds given to the company.
The food scientist is married to Wanita Umno chief Shahrizat (picture).
“At first I allowed it to be read but now the matter has been brought to court. So I cannot do as I please.
“It cannot be discussed as it has been brought to the judiciary,” the Dewan Rakyat Speaker had said.
But a High Court ruling sighted by The Malaysian Insider showed that Pandikar Amin’s decision was flawed.
The High Court, in a contempt suit filed by Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (SYABAS) against a Selangor government lawyer and PAS organ Harakah last year, had held that the courts must be cautious in applying the sub judice law and must also take into consideration constitutional provisions on the freedom of speech.
Justice Ariff Yusof, when rejecting the application, had stressed that the common law rule on subjudice must be moulded “in the light of fundamental liberties provisions”.
“The court cannot believe the sensitivities of the average Malaysian can be so different so as to incline the court to adopt a completely different juristic approach which relegates freedom of expression below the sub judice rule,” he had said.
NFCorp had also said yesterday its directors would not appear before the PAC due to the pending court case.
Mohamad Salleh had pleaded not guilty to the CBT charge as well as two counts under the Companies Act in the scandal that has opened Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the Barisan Nasional (BN) government to damaging attacks ahead of elections expected soon.
Shahrizat also announced on March 11 she will quit as women, family and community development minister when her senatorship ends on April 8.
She, however, will continue as Wanita Umno chief despite being dogged for over four-and-a-half months by the NFC scandal.
Shahrizat and her family were accused by the opposition of using public funds earmarked for NFCorp to finance over RM62 million of land, property and expenses unrelated to cattle farming.
The company, tasked with running the national cattle-farming scheme, is headed by her husband and their three children.
The National Feedlot Centre (NFC) project in Gemas, Negeri Sembilan, was awarded to the company in 2006, when Shahrizat was in Cabinet.
NFCorp hit the national headlines after it made it into the Auditor-General’s Report last year for missing production targets.
Police recommended last month that the A-G charge NFCorp’s directors for criminal breach of trust, but the A-G had asked the police to conduct further investigations prior to charging Mohamed Salleh.