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DAP calls for establishment of Parliamentary Select Committee on International Trade and Industry to investigate in depth the 18-year APs mess under Rafidah Aziz
(Parliament, Monday): The Minister for International Trade and Industry, Datuk Paduka Rafidah Aziz, failed to lay to rest the two-month APs controversy despite her tears, tantrums and finally her 30-minute winding-up speech at the end of the 56th UMNO General Assembly on Saturday, as testified by the boos and heckling of the UMNO delegates as well as continued calls by UMNO leaders after the assembly that she apologise not only to Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad but also for the whole AP furore.
Bernama for instance reported that the majority of the UMNO delegates “felt Rafidah's clarification was still unsatisfactory especially on the measures to ensure that the national car, Proton, could continue to compete at the international level”.
It is not only the majority of the UMNO delegates but the majority of the Malaysian public who are not satisfied with Rafidah’s explanation.
The APs controversy has not ended as it is still very alive for there are probably even more questions crying out for answer than one or two months ago.
Parliament should have debated the APs controversy when I proposed an emergency debate on the last sitting of the Dewan Rakyat on 7th July but it was rejected by the Speaker, Tan Sri Ramli Ngah as not a matter of urgent public importance.
Events have proved how wrong was Ramli’s decision to reject my motion of urgent definite public importance for 7th July, as the failure of MPs to debate the APs controversy in its 12-day meeting from June 20 to July 7 is a “black-mark” for Parliament and proof that it is not yet ready to become a “First World Parliament”.
Parliament should make amends for its failure to address the APs controversy in its recent meeting and establish a Parliamentary Select Committee on International Trade and Industry to investigate in depth the 18-year APs mess and scandal under Rafidah Aziz as Minister for International Trade and Industry.
Such a Parliamentary Select Committee on International Trade and Industry to investigate into the APs scandal is necessary as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is not prepared to conduct such a full-scale investigation, with the PAC Chairman Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad, who is also the Backbenchers Club (BBC) Chairman, being one of the few who found Rafidah’s explanation in her winding-up speech at the UMNO General Assembly “sufficient”.
In her explanation at the UMNO General Assembly, Rafidah gave the impression that the Open APs to import cars which she inherited when she was appointed the Minister for Trade and Industry in May 1987 was in quite a “terrible mess”, resulting in her cancelling the AP allocations to 153 companies on grounds that the companies were not operational, no showroom, improper management of accounts and APs were sold to non-bumiputeras. This resulted in only 76 companies still receiving Open APs till to date.
The Parliamentary Select Committee should ascertain which APs mess was worse – in 1987 when she became Minister for Trade and Industry or now after 18 years with her as Minister.
In 1988, Rafidah froze the issuance of Open APs for nine years until her Ministry introduced the Franchise AP Policy in 1997 to open the automotive market in compliance with the requirements of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Rafidah’s explanation raised many question. Firstly, she was clearly criticizing her predecessor as Minister for Trade and Industry for the APs mess, or at least her immediate predecessor who was none other than Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who was Minister for Trade and Industry for three years from 1984 to 1987, before resigning from the Cabinet after he lost by 43 votes to Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in his failed bid for the post of UMNO President in the UMNO party elections on April 24, 1987.
Secondly, the list of 76 companies with Open APs released by the Prime Minister’s Office showed that two were given in 1987, 13 in 1988 and one in 1989, and that these 16 companies which were given Open APs when Rafidah was Minister were allocated 7,666 APs, or 43.7% of the 17,526 Open APs issued for 2005. This is quite a sizable percentage for companies given Open APs in the two years of 1987 and 1988 as compared to companies given Open APs in the previous 17 years from 1970. Furthermore, how come one company was given Open AP in 1989 when Rafidah said that she had frozen the issuance of Open APs in 1988?
But most important and serious of all, Rafidah had failed the new test of accountability and transparency in the Abdullah premiership, in not emulating the example set by the Prime Minister by making public the full list of APs issued during her 18 years as Minister for International Trade and Industry since 1987.
Why is Rafidah so reluctant to give substance to her claim that she had “nothing to hide or protect” and that everything was aboveboard in the issue of APs in the 18 years she was Minister for International Trade and Industry?
The Parliamentary Select Committee on International Trade and Industry should not confine its scope to the issue of APs, but should examine the whole question of the national automotive policy, inviting not only the Proton CEO Tengku Tan Sri Mahaleel Ariff, but also his predecessor, Datuk Mohd Nadzmi Mohd Salleh and other players of the automotive industry to testify.
During the debate in Parliament early this month on customs duties for the automotive industry, I had referred to the interview given by Nadzmi that government over-protection in the past two decades had caused Proton to miss many opportunities to enter into strategic alliances with international automotive corporations, resulting in many countries like Thailand which had started their automotive industry much later to achieve greater success than Malaysia.
Nadzmi disclosed that the leading American automobile maker General Motors had shown interest in acquiring a stake in Proton, but government overprotection had caused Proton to lose the opportunity to establish a strategic alliance with the world’s largest vehicle manufacturer.
General Motors later went into Thailand, and although Thailand started its automobile industry much later than Malaysia, our neighbour has achieved faster growth in the automobile industry as to be regarded as the “Detroit of the East” or the vehicle assembly and export hub of Southeast Asia.
The headline news in the global automotive industry last Friday about the £50 million ($US87 million) sale of Britain's MG Rover to China's Nanjing Automobile Group Corp (which may be challenged in the courts by China’s biggest carmaker and rival bidder, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp) reinforces the new international trends in the automotive industry.
Volvo, for instance, though generally regarded as a Swedish car is owned by Ford while the traditionally British Rolls Royce is now BMW-owned. Volkswagen has bought up Skoda, although it is still generally regarded internationally as a Czech car.
These developments and trends are powerful arguments why Nadzmi’s contention should be given serious consideration by the Parliamentary Select Committee on International Trade and Industry with regard to the national automotive policy and the national car industry.
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