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Call on every Cabinet Minister to declare support for the full publication of the past APs list, including the 3½ years when Mahathir was Minister for Trade and Industry from 1978-1981 to help Abdullah usher in a new era of accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance
Media Conference Statement
(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): The question uppermost in Malaysian minds is whether one of the most senior Ministers in the country, Datuk Paduka Rafidah Aziz whom former Prime Minister of Malaysia for 22 years, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamd, had publicly said as having lied to the UMNO General Assembly about the Approved Permits (AP) controversy could continue in the Cabinet for a single day, unless the Minister for International Trade and Industry could prove Mahathir wrong.
New Straits Times’ front-page headline, “Dr M unloads – ‘SHE LIED’ – ‘Rafidah misled Umno on APs’, had placed Rafidah’s quandary in the starkest terms.
After the UMNO General Assembly on Saturday, the Prime Minister and UMNO President Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was non-committal when asked whether he believed the UMNO delegates were satisfied with Rafidah’s explanation, only remarking that what Rafidah had told the delegates was what she had told him – “a complete explanation with details on the issue”.
Abdullah was wise to be non-committal in view of the boos and heckling of the UMNO delegates which greeted Rafidah’s explanation on the APs issue, which also fell far short of the expectations of the majority of the Malaysian public.
It is now clear from Mahathir’s response yesterday that Rafidah had not only failed to give a full and satisfactory explanation to the UMNO delegates and the Malaysian public about the APs scandal, she had also failed to give such an explanation to both the Prime Minister and former Prime Minister!
Rafidah had been remiss that her explanation letter to Mahathir had failed to prove the claims she had made on five important matters:
Approval for Naza Ria to be accorded national car status
I had challenged Rafidah’s claim when she had said that with her explanation to Mahathir the APs issue had become a “non-issue” and demanded that her letter to Mahathir should be made public as Malaysians have a right to know her explanation, since the issues involved did not just concern two of them but even more important, the Malaysian people and nation.
For this reason, I welcome Mahathir’s undertaking to make public the exchange of the letters. It will be even better if such a release of letters could have come from MITI, setting a precedent of government openness, accountability and transparency – and it is not too late for this to be done.
I find myself in strange company with Mahathir also taking up the call for the release of the APs list for 2004 on the ground that the 2005 APs list released by the Prime Minister’s Office last Monday was not complete.
I hope Mahathir would also agree with my call for all the APs lists for the previous 16 years when Rafidah was the Minister for International Trade and Industry under his premiership from 1987 to 2003 to be made public.
I can understand why Mahathir was bristling with rage at Rafidah’s explanation at the UMNO General Assembly as she was clearly criticizing her predecessors as Minister for Trade and Industry for the APs mess she had to inherit when she was appointed to the Ministry in May 1987 to replace Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who resigned 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.
Mahathir’s sensitivity was not misplaced when he took objection to Rafidah’s speech that when she took over the ministry, many who were given APs never fulfilled the requirements and she cancelled the APs, which “gave an impression that the minister was tough at that time”. This was because Mahathir had also been a Minister for Trade and Industry.
Since Mahathir has become a new convert to a policy of accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance, he should make it clear that he also fully support making public the APs list issued during the period he was Minister for Trade and Industry, i.e. from January 1978 to July 1981.
This is all the more pertinent as Mahathir now says that when he was prime minister, there was no decision made by the government not to make public the names of those given APs , and wondering aloud whether the present government had made the decision.
Mahathir has raised many important questions that calls into question Rafidah’s competence, professionalism or integrity, such as why a former senior MITI officer who opted for early retirement but did not meet the required conditions was given thousands of APs.
The APs scandal is however not just between two persons, but involves the Cabinet, government and Parliament.
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”.
The Cabinet should also made amends and I call on every Cabinet Minister to declare support for the full publication of the past APs list, including the 3½ years when Mahathir was Minister for Trade and Industry from 1978-1981 to help Abdullah usher in a new era of accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance.
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