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A weeping Rafidah publicly embracing her former boss cannot lay to rest the many unanswered questions about AP excesses and abuses for car imports during her 18 years as Minister for International Trade and Industry
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Thursday): A weeping Rafidah Aziz yesterday publicly embracing her former boss, former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, described by Bernama as “perhaps one of the most memorable moments of the Merdeka Day 2005 celebrations”, cannot lay to rest the many unanswered questions about Approved Permits (APs) excesses and abuses for car imports during her 18 years as Minister for International Trade and Industry.
Rafidah’s emotional outbursts must have taken all by surprise as only a few days ago she was telling the world that she had put the APs controversy behind her and that she had moved on.
At the Wanita UMNO meeting in Alor Star on Sunday, Rafidah said the APs controversy was part of the “ups and downs of politics”, saying: “I am 62 years old and I entered politics when I was 22. If people want to say anything, they could”.
In Singapore on Monday for a seminar on business opportunities in Malaysia, Rafidah went out of her way to dispel the notion that AP had been taken away from her Ministry, stressing that the issuance of APs and the automotive industry are still under the jurisdiction of her Ministry – that there is “no change at all from before”. The difference now is that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is chairing a meeting of four ministers - the International Trade and Industry, Transport, the minister in charge of the Economic Planning Unit and the Second Finance Minister - to take a comprehensive look at the automotive industry.
She did not explain why she had to go abroad to declare that her Ministry is still in charge of the APs portfolio or why she chose to make her first admission that there had been abuses in the issuance of APs when she was in Singapore.
Why then did Rafidah break down on Wednesday at the National Day Celebrations? Is it related to the return of seven cars by Dr. Mahathir to Proton Bhd, which became national headline news on the eve of National Day, a strong signal that the APs issue was not going to go away as far as the former Prime Minister was concerned - which could only mean that Rafidah could not just pretend that the APs issue is no more or behind her?
Be that as it may, Rafidah should not delude herself into thinking that the APs controversy has disappeared from public consciousness and concern or that she could just sweep it under the carpet.
Rafidah’s announcement that her Ministry is still in charge of APs has come as a surprise, as the general public impression after the Cabinet meeting of August 10 was that Rafidah had been stripped of the APs responsibility and in consequence, she need not answer questions from the media about the APs controversy.
Now that Rafidah has herself clarified that the APs portfolio is still under the jurisdiction, she must give a full accountability of the abuses and excesses of the issuance of APs in her 18 years as Minister for International Trade and Industry when Parliament convenes on September 19, as the Cabinet dispensation given to her from having to answer queries from the media cannot be extended to give her similar immunity from having to answer queries from Members of Parliament when Parliament is in session.
In fact, the Cabinet has no right whatsoever to grant exemption to any Minister, including the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, from the most basic and fundamental Ministerial responsibility of accountability to Parliament – or the whole basis of parliamentary government and democracy would collapse and end in ruins.
In a way, Rafidah must be thanked for clarifying that she is still responsible for the APs portfolio as she cannot now tell Parliament that she cannot answer any question relating to it as she is no more responsible for the issuance of APs to import cars.
Rafidah had prepared a 29-page explanation for the Cabinet to defend her stewardship of APs to import cars. She should table this explanation as a White Paper in Parliament including a full list of the APs issued each year, whether open, franchise or individual APs going back to 1987 and agree to a full parliamentary debate to demonstrate that she has nothing to hide on this subject.
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