Shahrir Abdul Samad
|Yang Berhormat Datuk Seri Utama
Shahrir Abdul Samad
|Malaysian Minister of Domestic, Trade and Consumer Affairs|
18 March 2008 – 9 April 2009
|Preceded by||Shafie Apdal|
|Succeeded by||Ismail Sabri Yaakob|
|Member of Parliament for Johor Bahru|
8 March 2008
22 November 1949 |
|Political party||UMNO part of Barisan Nasional|
|Relations||Elder brother of Khalid Abdul Samad|
|Occupation||Member of Parliament|
Datuk Seri Utama Shahrir Abdul Samad (born 22 November 1949) is the former Malaysian Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister, a member of Parliament, and the former chairman of the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club (BNBBC). He is a member of the United Malays National Organisation, the largest political party in the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition. In Parliament — specifically the lower house of Parliament, the Dewan Rakyat — he represents the constituency of Johor Bahru in the state of Johor.
Early life and career
Shahrir was born in Kuantan, Pahang, and attended local primary schools. He later attended the Malay College Kuala Kangsar for his secondary education. He went on to gain an economics degree from the University of Malaya in Statistics, and a Masters of Business Administration from the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland.
In 1973 he became the youngest political secretary in the country when he became political secretary to Musa Hitam, later Deputy Prime Minister. After his tenure expired in 1975, he became political secretary to Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak till 1976. Shahrir first ran for public office in the 1978 general election, when he won the Parliamentary seat of Johor Bahru. He was initially appointed Deputy Minister, of Trade and Industry, but later became minister of welfare, youth and sports, and in 1987 took up the post of Federal Territory Minister. He also served as political secretary to Prime Minister Tun Hussein Onn from 1983 to 1986. Shahrir was sacked that year in the events leading up to the 1988 Malaysian constitutional crisis and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah's challenge to Prime Minister and UMNO President Mahathir Mohamad. In 1988, Shahrir resigned from his Parliamentary seat, and ran for reelection in the resulting by-election as an independent. A year later, he rejoined UMNO, while Razaleigh went on to form Semangat 46.
Later political career
In 2004, he ran for election in Johor Bahru on a BN-UMNO ticket, and won. He later claimed that then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had offered him a post in the Cabinet, but declined, citing the large number of qualified MPs. Instead, he went on to chair the Public Accounts Committee in the Dewan Rakyat.
On May 4, 2006, Shahrir announced his resignation as chairman of the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club (BNBBC). Earlier that day, Parliament had been discussing the issue of a Member of Parliament (MP) who allegedly asked the Melaka Customs and Excise Department to "close one eye" to an illegal import shipment of timber. Lim Kit Siang of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the Leader of the Opposition moved a motion to refer the MP in question to the Dewan Rakyat House Committee of Rights and Privileges. Several BN MPs quickly voiced their disagreement with the motion, but Shahrir — according to one source — "shocked the House" when he stood and spoke in favour of the motion in order "to maintain the integrity of parliamentarians and Parliament". The motion was eventually rejected — in line with the BN policy of not supporting motions moved by the opposition  — by the House. Shahrir walked out of the House and held a press conference in the Parliament lobby, telling reporters that "Even though it was an Opposition motion, we should support it for its importance to MPs and the House." He then announced his resignation as the Chairman of the BNBBC. The Deputy Chairman, Raja Ahmad Zainuddin Raja Omar, later told reporters he would attempt to persuade Shahrir to stay on.
After an emergency meeting, the BNBBC also announced they would ask Shahrir to stay on. In the mean time, the MP for Jasin, Mohammad Said Yusof, said he was the MP implicated in the matter. However, he insisted he had only asked for leniency on the grounds that the timber had been found to be illegal due to a technicality. Minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of Parliamentary Affairs, Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz, said that "It is not that we disagree with Shahrir but it's an opposition motion and we usually reject their motions." He also told the press that the House Rights and Privileges Committee could not have an unnamed MP referred to it on the basis of a newspaper report. Nazri said that the Customs chief would have to complain to the Speaker and name the MP in question.
Later that week, Shahrir met with then Deputy Prime Minister and BN Chief Whip, Dato' Sri Najib Tun Razak to officially submit his resignation. While Najib accepted it, it was not immediately clear if he would initiate disciplinary action against Shahrir for breaking ranks with the party. Shahrir initially insisted that "This is not a party matter," but later told the press that he resigned "as I had breached the party's directive against supporting an Opposition motion." 
Later, several backbenchers demanded that Shahrir's resignation be rescinded. The BNBBC secretary, Rosli Mat Hassan (MP for Dungun) issued a statement on the behalf of other backbenchers where he declared, "the unwritten rule that presently [makes] it mandatory for BN MPs to oppose any opposition motion regardless of merit [runs] counter to basic parliamentary practice and [infringes] on the duties of MPs". It was reported that Zaid Ibrahim, MP for Kota Bharu, was now leading a campaign to re-elect Shahrir as the BNBBC Chairman. Shahrir's supporters said that it was their right to decide who led them, and implied that this was not Najib's prerogative. At the same time, the BNBBC's official position on the issue was that Shahrir had procedurally erred in supporting the motion, as the matter was beyond the purview of the Committee in question, which exists only to prevent a breach or abuse of Parliamentary privileges. A spokesperson also said that "The current procedure now is MPs must give a written notice to the Speaker, and only when the Speaker is satisfied, can the House decide whether the matter should be referred to the committee. ... In this episode, it was all done in a blink of an eye."  Shahrir later reversed himself, saying "I made a mistake in regard to the parliamentary procedure involved. However, based on the political model, there was no mistake." 
The following day, the then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi issued an official directive on the matter, affirming that MPs could only vote along party lines. Zaid and most of the other backbenchers who had backed further autonomy told the press they accepted the decision. However, Rosli clashed with Minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of Parliamentary Affairs and Deputy Chief Whip Nazri Aziz, who said that "The Whip is only relaxed when it is lifted by the chief or the deputy chief Whip." Rosli said "...in the absence of his [the Chief Whip's] direction, the general rule is to that MPs are to vote according to their conscience..." Although many backbenchers said they considered Shahrir the BNBBC Chairman, Abdullah said that the government had planned to sack Shahrir, "But before we could do that he resigned, and we respect his decision." 
In 2008, following the election which saw BN's majority significantly slashed, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi appointed Shahrir as Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister. In the 2009 UMNO General Assembly, Shahrir lost his bid for a place in the Supreme Council and consequently resigned from the Cabinet.
Notes and references
- Ram, B. Suresh (2008-03-18). "The Cabinet post remains the same: Shahrir". New Straits Times. Archived from the original on 2008-03-21. Retrieved 2008-03-18.
- Beh, Lih Yi (2008-03-20). "Shahrir: We need more aggressive ministers". Malaysiakini. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
- Chok, Suat Ling (Oct. 4, 2005). "MPs in the dock". New Straits Times, p. 1, 6.
- Yusop, Husna (May 4, 2006). "Shahrir quits as BBC chief after MPs failed to support an 'integrity' motion". Malaysia Today.
- "Shahrir quits as Backbenchers Club chief", pp. 1, 3. (May 5, 2006). The Star.
- "'I asked dept to be lenient'", p. 3. (May 5, 2006). The Star.
- "Disciplinary action against Shahrir?", p. 7. (May 6, 2006). New Straits Times.
- Beh, Lih Yi (May 8, 2006). BN backbenchers stage a revolt. Malaysiakini.
- Ooi, Jeff (2006). "Sandiwara? Take the Teflon Test... ( 4 )". Retrieved May 8, 2006.
- Ram, B. Suresh (May 8, 2006). "MPs want to vote according to their conscience". The Sun.
- Ram, B. Suresh (May 9, 2006). "I'm not disappointed, says Shahrir". The Sun.
- Megan, M.K. & Andres, Leslie (May 9, 2006). "Abdullah: Vote along party lines", p. 4. New Straits Times.
- "MPs told to assist, not hinder government agencies", p. 4. (May 9, 2006). New Straits Times.
- Ram, B. Suresh (May 9, 2006). "Bound by Whip at all times". The Sun.
- "PM unveils trimmed-down cabinet". Malaysiakini. 2008-03-18. Retrieved 2008-03-18.
- Shahrir says it is only right to resign The Malaysian Insider. Apr. 1, 2009
- Samad, Shahrir Abdul (2005). "shahrir-umno". Retrieved Oct. 29, 2005.