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Rafidah’s boycott of Cabinet
meeting yesterday may be her final “tantrum” as MITI Minister for 18 years
but Cabinet was wrong in stopping her from releasing a 25-page explanation
on the long-running APs scandal
(Parliament, Thursday): Although the unexpected “no show” of the Minister for International Trade and Industry (MITI), Datuk Paduka Rafidah Aziz, at the Cabinet meeting yesterday when the long-running APs scandal was to be its highlight agenda had been attributed to her “illness” or “swollen leg”, there can be no doubt that this was Rafidah’s snub and boycott of the Cabinet meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak in the absence of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
This is because Rafidah’s “illness” or “swollen leg” had neither prevented her from spending “many hours at her ministry getting the report (on APs) ready with the help of ministry officials” (Sun) or flying off to Perth later in the day for her week-long holiday.
It has been reported that Rafidah was not allowed by Najib to release a 25-page explanation of the APs scandal as he wanted the report to be presented at the Cabinet meeting next Wednesday.
Rafidah’s boycott of the Cabinet meeting yesterday may be her final “tantrum” as MITI Minister for 18 years but the Cabinet was wrong in stopping her from releasing the 25-page explanation on the long-running APs scandal.
Was Rafidah’s boycott of the Cabinet meeting her protest for not being allowed to release her 25-page explanation?
Did Rafidah’s 25-page explanation of the long-running APs scandal implicate the Cabinet or at least some other Cabinet Ministers in putting them in an unfavourable light?
Be that as it may, the ban on Rafidah from releasing her 25-page explanation on the long-running APs scandal reflects most adversely on the integrity of the Cabinet Ministers as well as their commitment to accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance, for the Malaysian public have the right to ask the Cabinet Ministers as to what they have to hide in preventing a senior Minister of 18 years’ history as MITI Minister from giving a full and satisfactory explanation of a public scandal which had dragged on for more than two months?
The Cabinet should not have imposed a ban on Rafidah from releasing her 25-page explanation, especially as the Prime Minister has repeatedly said that Rafidah was the one to answer all the questions about the APs scandal, and it should only take action including that of censure if Rafidah’s explanation proved to be an embarrassment to the Cabinet and government.
It had been evident to astute political observers since the last weekend that the Cabinet yesterday would be a very “hostile” one for Rafidah, especially after Najib’s statement on Saturday that the Cabinet would ask Rafidah for an explanation “regarding issues” on APs raised by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad – as such a statement could not have been made without the knowledge and approval of the Prime Minister.
Signs of an “extraordinary” Cabinet meeting in-the-making intensified when it was publicly announced that Abdullah would be absent from the Cabinet meeting as he would be in Los Angeles for his wife’s cancer treatment.
Rafidah must have smelt that yesterday’s Cabinet meeting would be a “set up” against her, leading to the drama of her sudden and last-minute “no show” at the Cabinet meeting.
Rafidah would be right if these were the reasons for her staying away from the Cabinet, as testified by the unusual post-Cabinet comment yesterday by the UMNO Youth leader and Education Minister, Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein that “the APs issue had dragged on for too long without a satisfactory explanation and had created other contributory issues that needed to be answered” including “the value system” reflected by “the relationship between our former prime minister and Rafidah”.
The Cabinet is right in demanding that Rafidah should give full and satisfactory explanation of the APs scandal and to publicly express its regret and disappointment if she fails to do so, as her playing “deaf and dumb” in the past week to the multitudinous questions about the APs scandal since her return from South Africa had undermined not only her credibility as Minister but also that of the Prime Minister in his pledge to head an administration of accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance.
All eyes are now turned on the next Cabinet meeting on August 10, when both Abdullah and Rafidah are expected to be present, on the next play of the long-running APs scandal and the political future of Rafidah.
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman