Replace the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister instead of resorting to ISA to deal with the five-month diesel shortage crisis
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Tuesday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, should replace the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister, Datuk Shafie Apdal instead of resorting to the Internal Security Act to deal with the five-month diesel shortage crisis.
Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Noh Omar has come out in support of the proposal by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Radzi Sheikh Ahmad for the invocation of the detention-without-trial Internal Security Act (ISA) against diesel smugglers.
Shafie had said that the maximum punishment ought to be meted out to diesel smugglers as their activities had affected the country's economy. He said it was obvious that existing punishments, including a maximum fine of RM25,000, did not deter smugglers.
The question is why Shafie had not brought any amending legislation to the Dewan Rakyat which had just met for 23 days from March 21 to April 28 to enhance criminal sanctions and penalties for diesel smuggling on a certificate of urgency, although the crisis had dragged on for four months – which is another one of Shafie’s major flops in his handling of the five-month-old diesel shortage crisis.
Cabinet Ministers and Deputy Ministers should be seriously considering abolishing the draconian ISA which is so obnoxious in offending the most elementary principles of human rights instead of thinking of new-fangled ways for its use. They should abandon all notion of invoking the ISA against diesel smugglers, as the ISA is not a “magic wand” to solve all social and national problems and will not resolve the protracted five-month-old diesel shortage crisis.
On May 1, the Malay Mail ran a report under the heading “What happens after June quota is depleted?” when on the same day, Mingguan Malaysia carried an interview with Shafie where he made the shocking revelation that “Sekarang ini bulan April, bekalan untuk bulan Mei, June and Julai pun kita sudah keluarkan”.
Why is Shafie not being fully accountable and transparent, telling everyone the whole truth about the diesel shortage crisis, and that the diesel quota for July was already being depleted three months in advance?
A Minister who had plunged the country for ten days or more a month in the past four months into a national crisis, crippling the transport, economy and livelihood of all sectors of society dependent on diesel, whether lorries, taxis or school buses, cannot continue in his office – as the right of Malaysians to be spared another repeat of the diesel shortage crisis in a fortnight this month demand the appointment of a new Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister who can effectively and finally resolve the diesel shortage crisis.
Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman