Cabinet should issue a statement on whether Rafidah had been treated like a terrorist by Australia when attending the Sydney WTO Conference last month or whether she had improperly thrown her weight around not befitting her station and the nation’s international image
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): It is clear that the Minister for International Trade and Industry, Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz was not satisfied with the letter dated 22nd November sent to her by the Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia Peter Verghese explaining that the use of sniffer dogs on her baggage in Sydney during her trip to Australia last month for the WTO Conference was non-discriminatory and merely for security purposes.
This was the only reason why she made the issue public a week later at an UMNO function, telling the nation and the world that she was treated like a terrorist by Australia last month.
The Cabinet should issue a statement tomorrow on whether Rafidah had been treated like a terrorist by Australia when attending the Sydney WTO Conference or whether she had acted improperly by throwing her weight around not befitting her Ministerial station and the nation’s international image.
Rafidah had complained of ill-treatment in Australia and that she was discriminated against when compared to the other 26 Trade Ministers who attended the WTO Conference citing as example the three attempts by Australian officials to subject her hand-luggage to inspection by police sniffer dogs on her arrival in Sydney.
Varghese on the other hand had categorically denied Rafidah’s allegation of discrimination, stating that “the New South Wales Police, who were responsible for security during the meeting, confirmed that bomb detection dogs were used to check the luggage, including cabin luggage, of all ministers and delegates without exception”.
If Varghese was right, then there was no cause for Rafidah’s tantrums and she had let the country down, as the entire edifice of her accusation of Australian ill-treatment and discrimination had collapsed – as she had no other valid ground of complaint as to why she should enjoy immunity as compared to the other 26 Trade Ministers to have her hand-luggage checked by bomb detection dogs.
Although Rafidah is fortunate that her going public last Friday about her being treated like a terrorist when in Australia had been completely overshadowed by the greater gaffe by the Australian Prime Minister John Howard two days later in laying claim to the pernicious doctrine of unilateral pre-emptive attack against terrorists in neighbouring countries, the Cabinet cannot abdicate from its responsibility and must take a clear and principled stand on the latest Rafidah scandal.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman