Monday, February 26, 2007

Indomitable Shahrir

Sticking To His Guns
In 1982, I met a young deputy minister at an assignment in Kuala Lumpur. I was with a colleague, Zainah Anwar who was there to talk to him for a political story.
I had just been back a year from my journalism studies in the US to resume work with the NST, and was there to cover the young political leader who was the main guest at the event.
At 31, Shahrir Samad was Deputy Trade and Industry Minister. I took an instant liking to him because he spoke so passionately and articulately when replying to questions.
I liked him also because I found him to be smart and very outspoken.
It was refreshing to listen to this brave and brash young leader.
In my book, Shahrir Samad was a non-conformist. He had gall and gumption. His outspokenness became his trademark notoriety.
Before assuming the trade and industry portfolio, he was Deputy Finance Minister.
I also remember him to have been the youngest Cabinet Minister at 34 when in 1983, he was made Federal Territory Minister.
His last Cabinet post was as Welfare Services Minister. He held the post until 1986, before the infamous 1987 Umno (Team A-Team B) split when Tengku Razaleigh challenged incumbent Dr Mahathir Mohamad for the party presidency.
Dr Mahathir who led the Team A camp, won by just over 40 votes. His candidate for deputy presidency Ghafar Baba also defeated Team B's (incumbent) Musa Hitam.
Dissatisfied, Team B cried foul. This led to Umno being declared unlawful in 1988. A new party, Umno Baru was formed. Shahrir who was in Tengku Razaleigh's camp as were Musa Hitam and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, refused to join the new Umno at first but did so a year later.
Although he was not accepted back into Dr Mahathir's Cabinet, Shahrir remained active in the party, down south in Johor.
We never met after he left Umno until I think, the party general assembly in 2000. He had contested a seat in the supreme council and won more than 1,000 votes to emerge 14th among 63 contenders for the 25 posts.
I invited him over to the media centre and we talked. He was still as outspoken as ever, although a little mellowed.
I had asked him what he had been up to, besides Umno.
"Oh, what else is there to do? I have been running a dry cleaning business."
I told him I had heard about that.
Shahrir was soon back in the fold.
In 2004, he was made Backbenchers Club chairman but resigned last year after he broke ranks with the BN for supporting a DAP motion in the Dewan Rakyat.
Later, he told reporters that his support of the opposition motion which was subsquently rejected, was "a mistake in regards to the parliamentary procedure involved".
He maintained that based on the political model, there was no mistake. It was "wrong in regards to parliamentary procedure but politically no wrong was done."
Shahrir Samad is today the Public Accounts Committee chairman.
Later today at 9.30am (Monday, February 26) the PAC will reconvene at Parliament House where Second Finance Minister Nor Mohamed Yakcop is scheduled to give testimony over the controversial ECM Libra Bhd-Avenue Capital merger.
The PAC last touched on the issue in August last year. Shahrir had then said that the merger had raised troubling questions.
Will he be satisfied with Nor Mohamed Yakcop's testimony?
What will the outcome be?
Rocky's Bru has a take on the PAC meeting here. Malaysia Today's Ibnu Hakeem has his here. A Voice (of Another Brick In the Wall) has the background to the controversial merger (or was it a takeover?) and a photo of Shahrir chairing this morning's meeting, courtesy AgendaDaily here.


Anonymous said...

nice article, nuraina.

Former 5th RC MU Resident said...


A bit of history.

While in Uni of Malaya, Nor Yakcop was a former resident of 5th RC (Kolej Kelima)- in fact an E Blocker.

Shahrir's wife, the petite and very pretty Ms Chew (now Datin ) was also in 5th RC and in the B Block when Shahrir was dating her (the rest is history). Whether the Datin still remembered Nor Yakcop in college, I don't know, because then Nor Yakcop was a quiet and decent chap despite being part of the E Block community, which was infamous and extremely notorious for student antics in those days (The E Blockers even reared a monkey as a mascot, (after failing to catch one in the jungle behind E Block. they collected money among themselves and bought one from Petaling Street), not forgetting pulling up a Police Pondok signboard for the College Open Day for display.

So, how much would Sharir able to turn the screw on Nor Yakcop at the PAC on the EC-Libra case, is yet to be seen.

Media reports said that Shahrir married someone from the Kuok family.

That is absolute rubbish. In fact, one of the sons of the Kuok Brothers then was also a member of the E Block in those days.

I should know as a living eye witness in those days

Writer from space said...


I can see why you were the NSTP's political editor. And from this well-crafted article I can understand why they removed you and demolished the political desk that you were heading. Obviousl, you know too much and carry too much historical baggage (not your baggage but someone else's) and that made you a threat (ancaman) and too much of a challenge for half pass six new kids on the block thn.
Also, of course, you are intelligent and beautiful.
I wonder, too, after reading this article if someone like Shahril has changed. Was he outspoken and brash because he wanted to impress Mahathir or because he grew to hate the man's guts? Will he be outspoken and brash now that his former rebel buddy AAB is the Prime Minister and this PM's mentor Tun Musa Hitam is also Shahrir's mentor?

That remains to be seen. Update us on the PAC please.

writer from space said...

Also wanted to say that "former 5th rc mu resident" should write more of what she had witnessed. Very readable.

NSTman said...

Good piece, Nuraina. Impartial and informative piece about one of the few politicians who have some principles.

Abdun N.A. said...

Yeah, I too well respect him as a political figure. He is a person who dares to be out of the box, to speak of what is right and what is wrong and to stand firm on his principles even if it means he has to let go off his positions. And to top it off, he's also a 'distant' relative of mine.

I also respect him since not many young brash political leaders out there who can withstand the lure that the industry brings. Some may fall defeated to the lust for power and money, even if it means the fate of the nation and their own people are neglected.

P/S: Pardon for my less-than-perfect English and any obvious grammatical erros. TQ and nice to 'meet' you.

Penarik Beca said...

i have fewer than few experiences with Shahrir. When Tengku Razaleigh was about to form Semangat 46 and started to rub shoulder with PAS leaders, Shahrir told me he disagreed.

He disagreed to both - forming another party and more than that, the idea of working together with PAS against Umno. i cant remember what i said to him, but i shared most of his opinion.

When he was part of Team B, as one of his admirers, i always tried to seek Shahrir's opinion on the ongoing issues if I had any chance to meet him at the Parliament lobby.

He was also very uncompromising to Tun Dr Mahathir during those days. When Tengku Razaleigh tabled his Private Member Bill, i still remember Tun Ghafar had to save the situation when Shahrir was in the midst of sharp exchange of words with Dr Mahathir. i cant remember Dr Mahathir was able to control or tamed him.

Now, i'm trying to 'reunderstand' that colorful personality. i'm still trying.

syed syahrul zarizi said...

Pak Shahril? If anyone driving by his office near Xtra hypermarket, Kampung melayu, JB, they will see a big signboard 'antara yang terbaik' or something close to that(i don't know if his office is still there). I remember flicking through pages of my late father's photo album and seeing a picture of Pak Samad during a meeting to set up umno division there. He was young and full of ideas. then.

I was, you know, hopping for someone inside umno, to say something when Pak Lah cancelled the scenic bridge project. He was a JB, Johorian, he should know how Johorean feel about Singapore. It was in his territory. But he didn't. He was ridiculed in a very hideous manner, just visit his blogspot's blog. He went silent. No answer. So much for a very brave young man.

I think, as he once told Tun M, it was an end to an era. Please, Pak Shahril, prove me wrong.

former 5th rc mu resident said...

writer from space..

thanks for the compliment.

I belong to that generation of folks coming through the MU in the heydays of the bell-bottoms and long hair, socially-conscious of 60s and early 70s., ie compatriots to well known names in politics of today. You will know who they are.

We all have little secrets of our youth. When occasion permits, I will share with Nuraina and all of you, some interesting anecdotes of those who are now or had been holding the reigns of power, including folks like Anwar, etc. in the corporate world and in the political stratosphere.

Life as students in those days are so different from today. I weep for many of our present day students and graduates.

Yet many of our politicians today who had benefited from that freedom of expression and freedom of thought have chosen to either remain quiet, or chose to stay within the boundaries of political correctness of their own tribes, or have decided that advanced age had caused them to be less socially conscious of the society at large.

Jounalists in the country are fighting a losing battle if these generation of leaders today don't step out and do the right thing.

I have to wait for a suitable excuse in Nuraina's blog to share some of the hidden history.

zorro said...

Nuraina, I did a posting in somebody's blog last week that if we were to invite politicians it would be Sharir and Zaid. I predicted he would resign as Backbencher chairman and won a round of beers. I have the utmost respect for people who put personal integrity and conviction before corporate or party interests. My daughter and SIL calling themselves the Bahamas Harricanes sent me an email (didnt know how to post a comment then, on my Goofer of the Week posting)reporting that the Minister of Immigration who "jousted" with the late Anna Nicole Smith, resigned from his post. That was a surprise because in the time I spent holidaying there were scandals by Ministers that got washed off with the receding tide. Three is still some hope for this Commonwealth country then. I had a weird thought: send our appointed councillors to Bahamas to learn how to write out a resignation letter. I think otherwise on second it is not the money.....more the case of wasted effort....our Malaysians dont can you learn anything when the whole mind and body are preoccupied with the outstretch hand(s).

Anonymous said...


Shahrir Samad as a political figure in the 1980s was my among my sources of inspiration and admiration vis-a-vis real in-your-face political lessons (quite unlike those one reads and find in any textbooks while reading politics in the unis), i mean a realpolitik idealist whose ideas, vibrancy and fresh outlook with lots of promises and idealism when he was initially sprung into mainstream Malaysian (read:UMNO) politics. The other being Sdra Anwar Ibrahim.
Yes he was one of Musa Hitam's boys but had it not for Dr Mahathir Mohamad who wanted a combination of old and new faces for his Cabinet, Shahrir Samad will probably be (at best) a political secretary because it was unheard off during the previous (prior to Dr M's administration) era that someone below what the generally accepted age of maturity of 40 made it into mainstream, let alone becoming a minister, albeit helming junior ministry. Najib Tun Razak who was made Mentri Besar of Pahang at 28 was a very, very remote case. Yes again, Musa played a big role in elevating Shahrir to prominence.
However, from my point of view he was just another minister from Johor (please do not complaint of having a junior ministry to contend with) that was, like my political masters used to say, "another brick in the wall". Besides Musa, Johor as one of the bastions of Umno (another being Kedah) was another important factor why SS (to some) jumpstart his political career. Some politicians made it, some not and among those were Ajib Ahmad who were parachuted into Johor Umno politics at about the same "kanyiaq" age. So, in a way, SS should also be thanful to Dr M for the opportunity in politics.
Howevere, politicians being politicians, gratitude is sometimes an alien word, even if its was blatantly or obscenely obvious.
Shahrir had only catapulted into real prominence and on the realpolitik's stage when he resigned as a Barisan Nasional MP and re-contested the urban parliamentary seat as an independent candidate using a key as his logo. Also he won and gave a big slap into Dr Mahathir's face by winning after overcoming overwhelming odds and almost a monster-like ruling party's by-election machinery, the one-off victory spurred him to then be vocal on all issued against the Administration, targeting mainly Dr Mahathir who (i was told promised himself that he will never ever be involved in person and on the ground in future by-elections be it for parliament or state for fear of embarassment. the job of spearheading the ruling party's challenge was delegated to his deputy which is still a practice until this day) was blamed for the down-the-middle split in Umno which was a percusor to the party being declared unlawful on Feb 14, 1988.
Some say he became a big deal (bigheaded) soonafter and an evitable domino effect which was feared to take place after Johor Bahru was put to a halt in Ampang Jaya when another former Umno stalwart the late Harun Idris who contested against BN's Ong Tee Kiat, a novice nothing less, lost and the Big Idea to topple and send Dr Mahathir packing via the Dewan Rakyat had soon fizzled out. And Dr Mahathir prevailed. The next parliamentary seat which was supposed to have been declared vacant by way of resignation of the incumbent (Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, current partu sec-gen) was Kangar in Perlis and that was planned to happened if Ampang Jaya was already in the bag of the Umno splinter group calling themselves by many names but finally settled for Parti Melayu Semangat 46.
Shahrir rebounded and reinstated into Umno under the famous Tengku Razaleigh-brokered and Dr Mahathir-allowed exodus of former members of the abovementioned party "with a free pass which means that all you have to do was to just sign a form and walla you are now in back in the arms umno that they ran to the ground during Johor Bahru, Ampang Jaya and Gua Musang parliamentary by-elections" but remain as an ordinary member, thus the laundry business and later the room card key contracts with several and later most of the hotels in the country which made him a millionaire.
Yes he was still an so-called outspoken member of Umno and make it a point to remained critical of the ruling party especially the president. He then progressed up the ranks once again and by popular vote made in into the elite couldron of Umno -- the Supreme Council, another almost fast-track entrance into the corridors of powers. The great anticipation then was that this new member of the council could perhaps be the most-waited and well-matched critic in the face of Dr Mahathir.
Sadly in the first supreme council meeting and meetings thenafter Shahrir did not utter a word (which means nyet, ziltch, zero and nonewhatsoever) at all other then "setuju" or "tidak setuju" during the proceedings. All the hypes among the media, the foreign media included and outside the media especially among the kedai kopi political discussions were a non-starter and died a sudden death. So much lah for a firebrand Shahrir Samad. Perhaps now he is still searching the USP in himself to be once again be what he like to call himself as a "responsible critic of umno". The resignation as the BBC chairman to me was noble but to Shahrir was still having not enough "punch or ummph" to create an impact, but this is being done NOT in the absence of Dr Mahathir in the highest decision-making forum for the party. But then again, Dr Mahathir is no longer there and we could not see or perhaps missed the opportunity for the so-called firebrand to be at his best, could we?
Well...let see lah what happens next, i mean at the meeting with Senator Nor Mohd Yakcop. in Jerry Maguire, Tom "Top-Gun" Cruise" who was "the ambassador of kuan" for Cuba Gooding Jr was asked "To Show Me The Money". I now ask Mr Shahrir Samad "To Show Me The Fire"!!!

Mohamed bin Rahmat
Kampung Mat Amin, Johor Bahru

a malaysian in riyadh said...

Arresting Sis Nuraina,
Your blog is going from strength to strength and I’m now spending more and more of my waking hours digesting all the food for thought you and your discerning readers offered. Good luck in sustaining the credibility and integrity of 3542 Jalan Sudin. Tak sabar rasanya menanti hari esok.

syed syahrul zarizi said...

Read here

Guess what, nothing new. Maybe shahrir just gone mellow

Anonymous said...


I asked Mr Shahrir Samad to "show mme the fire", didn't i? What i really meant was "Show Me The Money"...instead he "Showed Me The Honey!".

So much lah for the terror-merror accolades for this typical out-of-the-cage-politician-who-got-to-become-a-chairman-in-one-of-the-glcs.

Apalah nak diharapkan sangat pada padi sebarang....seperti kata orang-orang JayBee yang selalu dok lepak sambil minum teh sarbat and nasi lemak bungkus at the pakistani stall opposite Hongkong&Shanghai Bank Johor Bahru branch, kan?

Shahrir Oh Shahrir! His a loyalist now, in fact a typical Melayu dont wanna bite the hand that feeds you lah...Kalau dah macam tu jomlah kita pakat-pakat gi pekena mess rebus janggut, ada juga pekdahnya.

Akhir kalam...No'aina...bolehkah anda mengenal antara kaca dan permata? Antara Orang Politik dan Ahli Politik, antara Orang Umno dan Ahli Umno ataupun if you like it between a firebrand and a firefly (kelip-kelip yang banyak kedapatan di Kampung Kuantan, Kuala Selangor). Saya fikir dalam hal ini sangat mudah, dah terang lagi bersuluh nampak gayanya.

Mohamed bin Rahmat
Kampung Mat Amin, Johor Bahru

Mr. Smith said...

I am no soothsayer but those who expect fire and brimstone during the tētē ã tētē (that's what it will be) between SS and NY are going to be greatly disappointed.

His resignation as JB MP to recontest as an independent was nothing more than to spite Mahathir whom he hated as hell.
Yes, he won by more than 12,000 votes but did he cause a dent in Mahathir's image?
Was his stance then against principles or personality (Mahathir).
If he stands for principles, he would have spoken against the many gross abuses of the present regime - one being the RM 300 million hand-out to UMNO divisions.

The ending will be, if I may borrow Mohamad's words, - nyet, ziltch, zero.

Mr. Smith said...

Correction: refer to my earlier post. it should read "RM 600 million".

pasquale said...

Dear Penarik Beca!

While the animosity between TDM and Shahrir is true or just a myth I do not care, but I do know that TDM (Dr M then when he was the PM) gave Shahrir a multi-million ringgit contract on supplying security paper when Shahrir was out of "job"! So Shahrir struck his millions way back with the help of the "obnoxious" former PM! Sigh! The hypocrisy in this country is giving me an uncontrolled hypertension!

Anonymous said...


In response to Mr Smith.
Brother, the RM 600 "allocation" to each Umno divisions which to me is a "legitimised and legalsied" version of Money Politics (very clear and present danger and they allowed it without any qualm), something which the media used to report that Mr Shahrir Samad used to vehemently fought against it.
Helooo?? What is happening now? Why didnt he utter a word?
The answer is Shahrir is Johor Bahru Umno Division Head and he stands to gain from the windfall too. Like i said earlier, "why must bite the hand that feeds you?". This is a clear example that everyman has a price, so says Winston Churchil. And Shahrir's price is as much (read:as cheap) as all Umno division heads even in the most remote of areas in the vast Umno tentacles in the country.
I have nothing personal against Shahrir for i dont even know him, either personally or professionally during my 15-year career as a journalist with Utusan Malaysia. I am against absolute hypocracy, especially one of the highest order which is very apt in Shahrir's case.
Shahrir Samad, the PNS Chairman is nothing more than "a brick in the wall". And this is the complete disgrace to the voters of Johor Bahru parliamentary constituency and Orang Umno of the Johor Bahru Umno Division.
There is a saying in Kampung Wadi Hana, Johor Bahru which was the source of among the late P.Ramlee's all-time favorite "...ku sangka panas hingga ke petang, rupanya hujan di tengah hari". My cousin Din Mee Rebus Pak Abu Jalan Langgar told me "Mat, ni hujan duit la...sapa tak mau, dak ka?".

Mohamed bin Rahmat
Kampung Mat Amin, Johor Bahru

a malaysian in riyadh said...

Another non-trivial correction:
Refer my 4.43pm post. It should read 3540 not 3542 (I guess I was relying too much on logic, like what comes after 354?).

QueenB said...

I missed That 70s Show too, former 5th rc mu resident
And I used to be schoolmates with Shahril's brother, who joined PAS the last I heard of him.

former 5th rc mu resident said...


I took a quick ride around the MU campus lately and the atmosphere do I call it... "static"

Lifeless is too strong a word....

To paraphrase a word from the internet..." The MU campus is infected with the 'zombie-virus'. "

Well, it is almost endemic.

I would stride back a few years back to say I miss the "60s Roadshow".

By the time it was the That 70s Show, we all had to cut our hair short, trim down the bell-bottoms and started to think about bringing food to the table.

"Those Were the Days" is still a very nostalgic song,isn't it...judging the socio-political malaise we are facing today.

QueenB said...

"Those Were the Days", my friend, former 5th rc mu resident.
NOW, I agree, it's more nightmarish, or 'sonambulum' (i.e. sleepwalkinglah, correct my spelling if I'm wrong)!