By Clara Chooi
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 6 — PKR’s Rafizi Ramli has refused to stop going public with his revelations on alleged corruption in the government despite facing two court charges today for his exposes that could land him in jail and set him back millions of ringgit and a shot at a Parliament seat..
The young leader told The Malaysian Insider that if he had not soldiered on with his work, scandals like the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) “cow condo” controversy and the Ampang LRT deal would not have made national headlines.
He dismissed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s reasoning on Friday that charging him over the NFC had been necessary as he had not gone through the rightful channels with his revelations.
“We did go to the relevant authorities. In fact, in the case of the NFC we went to the police and even to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
“It was wrong of him (Najib) to say I did not go. If you remember, I handed all my information over to the police,” Rafizi (picture) said in an interview.
Rafizi and his PKR colleague Zuraida Kamaruddin are scheduled to square off this afternoon with former minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil in a RM100 million defamation suit filed by the Wanita Umno chief over the NFC scandal.
Shahrizat, who lost her ministerial post earlier this year when her senatorship expired shortly after the scandal hit media headlines, has sued both PKR leaders for accusing her of misusing the RM250 million federal loan meant for the national cattle farming scheme.
But his alleged defaming of the Wanita Umno chief is not the only thing that has landed Rafizi in the soup over the NFC.
Rafizi is also facing the prospect of a maximum RM3 million fine and three-year jail term for violating the Banking and Financial Institutions Act (BAFIA) after he exposed confidential banking details of the National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp), the firm that runs the NFC project.
A conviction for the offence would seriously hobble Rafizi’s chance of standing as a candidate in the 13th general election that must be held by next year.
On Friday, Najib appeared to dismiss claims that Rafizi’s charging would frighten away future whistleblowers when he said that the PKR man could have revealed details of the alleged scandal to authorities like the MACC.
Based on previous cases, Rafizi said he lacked confidence in government agencies like the police and even the MACC, which is a statutory body independent of the government.
“On the real whistleblowing information regarding the NFC, we reported to the MACC before we disclosed in public about the purchase of the condominiums. We gave ample time for response, for investigations,” he said.
But, he said, the authorities’ probes would either take too long to be resolved, turn up dead leads or be closed quietly when public attention whittles down.
The young PKR man, seen today as the man of the hour, had led the relentless campaign to expose the alleged mismanagement in the handling of the NFC, a RM250 million federally-funded cattle farming national project that went awry, even according to the Auditor-General.
The firm running the project — NFCorp — is owned by the Shahrizat’s husband Datuk Seri Mohamad Salleh Ismail and the couple’s three children.
Rafizi pointed out that although he had repeatedly raised the question of conflict of interest in the award of the NFC project to Mohamad Salleh’s company when Shahrizat was still in Cabinet, it was only the NFCorp chairman who was charged in court with wrongdoing.
On May 12, Mohamad Salleh pleaded not guilty in the Sessions Court to two counts of criminal breach of trust involving RM49.7 million with regards to the purchase of two condominium units.
“At one point, the cops responded by saying that the case was closed. And imagine... after three weeks of no positive response from the authorities, who could blame me for losing confidence in them?” Rafizi said.
Similarly, the PKR leader said that in his exposes on the award of the RM1 billion Ampang LRT extension contract to the George Kent consortium, no speedy action had been taken by the police although he had lodged a report.
“So I had to decide — as a public official and an office bearer in a legitimate opposition party, I must make a decision in the best interest of the country... which is to expose,” he said.
“I think right now it returns to the question of credibility because record-wise, BN has no good record on taking action against corruption and mismanagement in the government,” Rafizi added.
He said that the common fear among whistleblowers, despite the enactment of the Whistleblowers Protection Act in 2010, was that they would have to take the fall if they dared to expose information to the public.
“If Najib is really serious about combating corruption, he has to accept the reality — it has only been through public disclosure that we saw any action against Shahrizat, against the NFCorp.
“So unless we have better means, I do not see any other way than to keep going to the public,” Rafizi said.