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Rafidah and Isa must be
removed from the Cabinet in order to salvage Abdullah’s credibility,
authority and integrity in fulfilling his pledge to lead an administration
which is clean, incorruptible, efficient, open, accountable, trustworthy
Rafidah returned from overseas on Saturday, but she has not deigned it befitting her station to dignify Parliament with her presence yesterday, although she popped into her Ministry as confirmed by her parliamentary secretary, Dr. Ng Yen Yen in Nanyang Siang Pau today. Reporters who went to her house on Saturday to interview here were chased away by her guard.
Rafidah is not in Parliament today and I understand she will be off overseas again later in the day.
This month marks Rafidah’s 25th anniversary as a member of the Cabinet, which she first joined in September 1980. Rafidah has become the most “imperial” Minister in the nation’s 46-year history of Parliament, with her rare appearance in Parliament like a royal presence. She does not come to Parliament to answer questions or reply to MPs in debates. She comes to Parliament to bestow the beneficence of her imperial personality on ordinary MPs.
But she does not reserve such shabby treatment for Members of Parliament only, as she does not treat Cabinet Ministers differently.
Last Friday, Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, said that the Cabinet tomorrow will discuss the grouses of MPs, both Barisan Nasional and Opposition, at Rafidah’s dereliction of parliamentary duties in failing to come to Parliament to give a full and satisfactory accounting of the APs scandal which had rocked UMNO, government and country for the past four months, and her parliamentary contempt in trying to arm-twist and intimidate Barisan Nasional MPs from speaking up on the APs scandal by her selective and misleading release of the APs list issued to MPs and former MPs last Tuesday.But Rafidah will not be attending the Cabinet tomorrow as she will be overseas. The Cabinet meeting to discuss her parliamentary dereliction of duty will have to be aborted with her presence, or would the Cabinet dare to proceed to put her on the agenda despite her absence?
This will not be the first time Rafidah is absent from Cabinet when it is slated to discuss an important agenda directly affecting her portfolio or conduct.
On 30th July, the Deputy Prime Minister gave public notice that Rafidah would be asked to explain the APs scandal to the Cabinet at its next meeting, but the Cabinet agenda had to be aborted as Rafidah did not show up – her fourth consecutive Cabinet absence in the midst of the long-running AP scandal saga!
That Rafidah was “still on leave” for the August 3 Cabinet meeting – which she took the occasion to get her “swollen leg” treated (Utusan Malaysia) – was the best-kept state secret as neither Najib, the Deputy Prime Minister who chaired the Cabinet in the absence in Los Angeles of the Prime Minister, and the Chief Secretary, Tan Sri Samsudin Osman knew, leading both to give various explanations for Rafidah’s absence.
However, Rafidah’s “leave” seemed to be a very unique one – where she was on “leave” from Cabinet meetings but not other official Ministerial duties, as she was attending various functions in the those few days though she kept avoiding the media as well as attending the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council meeting of August 1, 2005.
Whatever the reasons, Rafidah had shown utter contempt for the Cabinet in her four consecutive Cabinet absences at a time when she was in the eye of the AP storm and should be present at Cabinet meetings to give full and satisfactory explanations about the multitude of questions surfacing on the APs scandal.
When Rafidah finally condescended to turn up for the Cabinet on August 10, all eyes, both national and international, were on the Cabinet meeting but the expected “showdown” ended in a whimper, as if to vindicate the cynical article in the Australian “The Age” which appeared the same morning as the Cabinet meeting, under the heading “Family ties lubricate Malaysia wheels of power”, where the writer Michael Backman wrote:
“The permit system will be discussed by cabinet, several members of which are outraged by the matter. Rafidah will have a 25-page briefing paper on the system. No doubt she'll also have a file many times thicker detailing the licences, permits and contracts awarded to the families of her cabinet colleagues. She's not the world's longest-serving trade minister for nothing.”
Who had arm-twisted who in the Cabinet meeting or had Rafidah fought the entire Cabinet to a draw and stalemate – she versus the rest?
It was reported that Rafidah was “grilled” at the Cabinet meeting y by other Cabinet members, but from her smiles and demeanour after the Cabinet meeting, she probably gave more than she received.
It would appear that Rafidah had a 29-page – and not 25-page – defence of her handling of the APs scandal, and the Cabinet took a bad decision as she should not have been stopped from releasing her 29-page defence unless there are things for the Cabinet or some Cabinet Ministers to hide and protect.
Sweeping the APs scandal under the carpet with a “gag order” from the Cabinet is not the accountable, transparent and responsible way to handle the long-running APs saga, as it smacks of a “compromise”, a “trade-off” or a Cabinet stalemate, with Rafidah successfully transferring the APs liability to the Cabinet despite the disapproval by several Cabinet Ministers!
Having successfully arm-twisted the Cabinet Ministers into a “gag-order” on the subject, Rafidah now wants to arm-twist Barisan Nasional MPs into silence. I don’t think she would ever try to silence Opposition MPs as she knows that there is no way this could be done.
The Cabinet tomorrow must restore its credibility, authority and integrity and demonstrate that it would not sacrifice the principles of accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance just for the political expediency to protect Rafidah from having to give a full and proper AP accounting.
Cabinet can be cowed but Parliament must not be cowed by Rafidah’s bully tactics.
Rafidah is sorely mistaken if she thinks, acts and believes she is a Queen when he sails into Parliament for her rare appearances. This is the 21st century, the era of information technology where Malaysia must be able to compete with the rest of the world in the global marketplace if the people are to prosper and the nation to survive . We want an information society and not a throwback to a feudal society. We want Malaysians liberated politically, mentally and intellectually and not continue to new forms of psychological feudalism.
If Rafidah, as the second most senior Cabinet Minister after Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu who is 26th year as Minister, has lost her democratic moorings and is contemptuous of the fundamental principle of Ministerial responsibility and accountability to Parliament, then she has no business to remain in the Cabinet – as she has become a “bad apple” setting the most atrocious example to other Ministers as well as to new Ministers in a Cabinet reshuffle which is long overdue.
With her contempt for Parliament and blatant breach of parliamentary privileges of MPs, acting ass if she is a Minister who is above Parliament, who is constantly “on the run” whether from media, UMNO Supreme Council, Cabinet and Parliament, and now acting as if she is a Minister “in exile overseas” spending most of her time outside the country, Rafidah is a liability in the two-year premiership of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawai.
An examination of the parliamentary records in the past decade will show that Rafidah tops the list of Cabinet Ministers with the worst record for parliamentary attendance and appearance in Parliament to answer MPs’ questions or to reply to debates affecting her ministry.
From parliamentary records, she has appeared in Parliament for two days in 2000, 5 days in 2001, two days in 2002, 6 days in 2003, 2 days in 2004 and 2 days for this year – and in all these six years, she had only appeared once to answer a question during question time but no records that she had appeared to reply to MPs during debates.
There must be zero-tolerance for such Ministerial dereliction of duty. The Cabinet should censure Rafidah and ask for her resignation from the Cabinet if she is not prepared to stop her “imperial ministerstep” and come down to earth as an ordinary MP and Minister. Parliament, on its part, must not abdicate from its responsibility and should ensure that my motion to refer Rafidah to the Committee of Privileges for breach of parliamentary privilege is debated on a basis of priority and acted upon.
Rafidah must be removed from the Cabinet in order to salvage Abdullah’s credibility, authority and integrity in fulfilling his pledge to lead an administration which is clean, incorruptible, efficient, open, accountable, trustworthy and people-oriented.
There is another Cabinet Minister who must similarly be removed – the Federal Territories Minister, Tan Sri Isa Samad, who is still carrying out his duties as a Cabinet Minister although he had been suspended from his UMNO membership for six years for the corruption of money politics more than three months ago in June.
As I have no time left, let me just state clear in conclusion that Rafidah and Isa must be removed from the Cabinet in order to salvage Abdullah’s credibility, authority and integrity in fulfilling his pledge to lead an administration which is clean, incorruptible, efficient, open, accountable, trustworthy and people-oriented.
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission