The Straits Times on January 9, 2012, reported that Wanita Umno leader and Minister for Women, Family and Community Development, Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, was under pressure to quit. “I am a veteran politician and I know what needs to be done,” Ms Shahrizat said last month, while stopping short of saying she would resign. Her refusal to step down could prove costly to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad came up strongly against her asking her to take the blame. Datuk Syed Ali Alhabshi, A KL Umno division chief, wrote on his blog: “People are angry that they are being made fools of because they feel it wouldn’t make sense that a wife doesn’t know what her husband is doing.”
Ms Shahrizat earned a law degree from the University of Malaya and was a magistrate for three years. In 1980, she set up her own law firm which now has 17 partners, including her brother Shahrir.
In 1987 she started as a member of the UMNO Economics and Women’s Affairs Bureau legal team. Two years later, she was elected as Women’s Chief of the KL UMNO branch. In 1993, she got her first break to be an UMNO Executive Committee member. She became parliamentary secretary for the Youth and Sports Ministry in 1995, and in 1999, she was made deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (Dr Mahathir was then Prime Minister). She became the first Minister for Women, Family and Community Development when the post was created by Dr Mahathir in 2001. Observers say she was seen by many as a new hope and fresh face for female representation.
In 2008 parliamentary elections, she was defeated by Nurul Izzah Anwar, then 27 year old daughter of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. She was then made a senator to hold a ministerial position.
She defeated Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz as UMNO’s Women’s Chief in 2009.
Ms Shahrizat’s fate is already being compared with that of Ms Rafidah, whose fall from power followed a 2006 scandal in which she was accused of issuing lucrative permits to import cars to select officials and businessmen.
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