WITH THANKS TO MALAYSIAN CHRONICLE:
Auditor-General Ambrin Buang said the ministry’s initial main operator Lamberts Agricultural Trade (M) Sdn Bhd (LAT) had backed out of the project, a move that contributed to the dismal performance of the NFC in failing to train 130 farmers for the project.
A search into the Directory of Australian Business in Malaysia pointed out that LAT had its office in Wisma Zelan at Bandar Tun Razak, a joint-venture company operating in Malaysia since 2006 with business activities involving livestock and livestock services, and was one of the key suppliers to the National Feedlot Centre.
Australian consultant’s role:
LAT was also the consultant to the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA). It had proposed a grand ambition to the Malaysian government to transform the local livestock industry into a modern, competitive and sustainable growth sector. The ultimate aim was to ensure food security and to complement Malaysia’s export revenue, adding to its balance of trade.
The scope covered was wide, from producing corn farms for animal feed production, breeding, healthcare and marketing for poultry, goats, buffaloes, cows, horses, pigs, deers and swiftlets, to also producing dairy, agro-based halal products. It was supposed to work in close cooperation with the federal and state government owned bodies such as the Veterinary Department, MARDI, FELDA, PORIM, FAMA and private entrepreneurs.
NFC was tasked to raise the standard of living of individuals in the industry and enable them to earn a minimum wage of RM2,500 per month. Satellite farms and centres were to be located in all the economic corridors in Tersat (Terengganu), Muadzam Shah (Pahang), Mersing (Johor) and Kelantan. The current centre in Gemas, Negeri Sembilan was not in the proposal at all. The NFC was supposed to be the anchor for a vibrant and sprawling Malaysian beef industry. And the plan did have potential.
However, that was all before Umno Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin got into the picture. Suddenly, things changed. And for the worse.
How Shahrizat got into the picture:
Umno Women’s chief Shahrizat Jalil, who is now a senator and appointed minister in the Najib administration, was at that time overshadowed by Wanita veteran Rafidah Aziz aka Mrs AP or Authorised Permits (for motor vehicles). To be under the shadow of such a tough and bossy Rafidah is not easy at all.
For Shahrizat, it was indeed the lowest ebb of her political life; nothing she did turned out right. She was defeated by PKR’s Nurul Izzah Anwar in her long-held Lembah Pantai parliamentary seat during the 2008 general election. She also no longer held much interest in her old law firm. Her husband, Salleh Ismail, was also at the end of his academic and research career while their three young children had not started out on their own careers yet.
Indeed, the situation was so bad for Shahrizat that she had to approach her boss Badawi for some kind of help. She did not know it then but she was going to be very fortunate.
KJ called Muhyiddin – the rest is history
Badawi was very interested in getting Beef Valley set up as a small legacy of his own that was different from the previous prime ministers. It wasn’t easy having to compete with Mahathir’s Cyberjaya, Putrajaya, Twin Towers and what-not.
So it was that Badawi was said to have asked Khairy to help Shahrizat by getting her involved in the NFC project. When Khairy allegedly called Muhyiddin, the then Agriculture minister, he was more than willing to help because this kind of favour to Khairy and Badawi could only boost his political future and add to his war chest of favors owed.
Of course, with Khairy then the “de facto” PM, by showing obedience, Muhyiddin figured he would also be demonstrating his flexibility and loyalty to a future PM. Future PM as meaning Khairy, although right now it is difficult if not impossible to imagine how KJ could ever fill that post.
According to the Umno grapevine, Khairy decided that the agricultural transformation plan must come on sooner than planned so as to please his father-in-law. He instructed the “scheme” to be implemented in his home-base state of Negeri Sembilan so as to bring about some development there. He awarded it to Shahrizat’s husband taking the proposal from LAT as the project’s framework. It was not a bad choice actually because the Gemas-Gemencheh area already had some sort cattle farming activities going on.
Lamberts Agricultural Trade (M) Sdn Bhd knew what was coming and there was no need for them to further waste money, effort and time doing farming business in Malaysia anymore; so they ‘killed the dog’ and quickly backed out.
Doomed from the start:
Now, can Malaysian figure out why NFC was doomed from the start. The whole idea behind the NFC was not at all what was initially envisioned. The original plan was a professionally laid-out and detailed program to incubate, grow and develop a flourishing livestock industry. It had vision and mission ideals such as achieving set goals like food security and supplying 40% of the nation’s beef consumption. Sad to say, what was actually eventually floated was all about politics, political survival and money – lots of money.
The NFC was the ultimate tool; a scheme within a larger scheme where power was wielded and money changed hands. As usual, Mr Oxford graduate Khairy Jamaluddin thought he had all corners covered. But not all the power in the world can turn mutton into lamb.
Now UMNO has to bear the brunt of the impact of its less than perfect leaders. Shahrizat is being accused of letting everyone down and being very ungrateful for getting both Badawi and Khairy into hot soup. It is sad because such thinking only goes to show how far gone UMNO is on the down road to perdition. Stealing and free-for-all corruption is regarded as its right.
As long as you do it properly and well and spread it around, like Mahathir and sons have been accused of doing, then you are a good leader who is deserving of top party positions, even as high as the presidency. But if you don’t know how to ‘wipe your mouth’ after partaking of the ill-gotten spoils, then you are letting the party down.
Now, who was it who described Umno as a pirate ship – is that description unfair or is it bulls-eye!