Backed by ex-IGP, Malay group demands reshuffle of Jakim over ‘meat cartel’ scandal

MPM advisory board member Tun Haniff Omar speaks during a press conference at Wisma MPM in Kuala Lumpur December 29, 2020. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
MPM advisory board member Tun Haniff Omar speaks during a press conference at Wisma MPM in Kuala Lumpur December 29, 2020. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 29 — The Malay Consultative Council (MPM) today accused the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) of dereliction of duty in the issuance of halal certification to meat imports. 

Its advisory board member Tun Hanif Omar said the group wants a full administrative shuffle of the department in the wake of explosive allegations of a “meat cartel” that had been importing meat and passing them off as halal for decades.

Hanif said the scandal exposed the extent of corruption within several government agencies and singled Jakim out for “legitimising” the cartel’s activities.

“At this moment, Covid-19 vaccines are most sought after. To me, the more important vaccine is anti-corruption vaccines. We need that.

“Rules and laws are in place, but because of corruption all that is made irrelevant. This is not just a halal issue but a manifestation of persisting corruption, collapse in the existing delivery and national security systems,” the former inspector-general of police told a press conference at MPM’s headquarters here.

Hanif also called for the immediate suspension of Jakim’s halal certification and for the department to relinquish this responsibility as the sole authority to regulate halal products.

Instead, he suggested the government reinstate the Malaysia Halal Council to act in Jakim’s place to avoid a recurrence of the scandal. He noted the halal council’s functions had been suspended by the previous government.

Jakim comes under the supervision of the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Islamic affairs. The position is currently held by Datuk Seri Zulkifli Mohamad Al Bakri, formerly the Federal Territories mufti.

The Islamic affairs minister also supervises the National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs (MKI), which is answerable to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Conference of Rulers.

Hanif said MPM also wants the Rulers to intervene to resolve the halal meat scandal, saying leaving the matter in the hands of lawmakers would take a long time.

He said MPM will submit a memorandum to the palace on this issue, but did not indicate when it would be done.

Jakim came under public fire after its senior director of research Datuk Sirajuddin Suhaimee said the meat smuggling issue was outside the department’s jurisdiction and responsibility.

Its critics accused Jakim of attempting to shift the blame to other government agencies despite having the sole authority to issue halal certification.

News of imported meat that was improperly sourced and passed off as halal first made headlines on December 21.

Citing unnamed sources, The New Straits Times alleged that a large network had been bringing in non-certified meat from countries like Brazil, Bolivia, Canada, Colombia, Spain and Mexico to a warehouse in Senai, Johor where the products would be repacked with a halal logo.

According to the newspaper, the “cartel” would bribe officials from at least four agencies with sexual favours on top of money, to turn a blind eye to its operations.

The only countries that have been certified by the Malaysian authorities for the import of halal meat are Australia, Argentina, Brazil, India, South Africa, Pakistan, Japan, New Zealand and the United States.

Certification is handled by Jakim and the Veterinary Services Department.

Other government agencies that manage the supplies of imported food are the Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services Department, Customs Department and port police.

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