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Rafidah undermining not only her credibility as a Minister  but that of the Prime Minister in his  pledge to lead an administration of accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance  with her attempt to be dumb and deaf to the mountain  of contradictions which have surfaced over  her explanations on the APs scandal

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Parliament, Monday): International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz is undermining not only her credibility as Minister but also that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in his pledge to head an administration of accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance with her attempt to be dumb and deaf to the mountain of contradictions which have surfaced over her explanations on the APs scandal.

Rafidah must be told in no uncertain terms by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet that she has only one option –   she cannot continue to play dumb as she owes a higher duty to the Cabinet to give a full and satisfactory accounting of her handling of the APs scandal so as not to continue the haemorrhage of public confidence in the Cabinet and Abdullah’s premiership, and if she  cannot clear the mountain of public doubts  about her handling of the APs scandal, she would have to  leave the Cabinet whether voluntarily or otherwise.

Rafidah had misled the Cabinet which had specifically discussed the APs controversy  on 6th July, leading the Prime Minister to declare  that the APs controversy had been resolved following Rafidah’s written explanation to former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, when in fact the APs controversy  has kept snowballing into a bigger and bigger embarrassment to the government.

“Once bitten, twice shy”, Abdullah has learnt to adopt a non-committal position and refused to publicly endorse Rafidah’s claim that the APs controversy was a “non-issue” or that she had given full and satisfactory explanation, whether after Rafidah’s winding-up speech at the UMNO General Assembly or during his  recent visit to  South Africa.

Abdullah gave a most revealing  response to the press in Johannesburg  when  asked about Mahathir’s allegation that Rafidah had not spoken the truth - “Let Rafidah deal with that by giving all the details that are needed. You are asking me. How am I to know?”

Among the contradictions and new queries which have emerged about Rafidah’s explanations about the APs scandal are:

  • On July 19 2005,  after chairing the Wanita Umno exco meeting in the morning (before she knew that the first APs list would be released  by the Prime Minister’s Office in the evening), Rafidah denied any wrongdoing in issuing APs to import cars and dismissed talk that she was connected to any AP holder.  (New Straits Times 20.7.05).   She even invoked  the Quran with the declaration: “I have no connection with any of the AP holders in terms of being related or in other aspects”! Why did Rafidah hide the fact that her niece, Annie Tajul Arus was given the Franchise AP in 2004 to import 850 Kleemann cars and 199 for 2005? Is the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) investigating whether any conflict-of-interest or corruption offence had been committed?

  • UMNO Youth Exco member Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir has said  that Rafidah had not given to Mahathir the list of AP holders  in her July 8 written explanation to the former Prime Minister  as directed by the Cabinet, although she had given Parliament and the country the clear impression that she had done so in her “pretty long” letter to Mahathir, with “about 10 indices attached on every issue that was raised”.

  • Why the APs list, whether for 2004 or 2005, were  incomplete when released. Mahathir had pointed out that the 2005 APs list was incomplete. As for the 2004 APs list, Rafidah had said  in South Africa that the list would be released “in its entirety”, including the list of showrooms of the AP holders. (Star 28.7.05) This had not been done.

  • Rafidah told the UMNO annual general assembly that when she was first appointed MITI Minister  in 1987, she revoked the APs given to 153 companies on grounds that the companies were not operational, no showroom, improper management of accounts and APs were sold to non-bumiputeras – resulting in only 76 companies currently still receiving Open APs.  Why is Rafidah so coy in listing the number of showrooms owned by each Open AP holder since 1988?

  • Why Rafidah did not revoke a single AP in the past 17 years after the 1988 revocation, despite rampant AP abuses, including under-declaration of the value of cars imported under the AP system, resulting in the country losing over RM1 billion a year in revenue? 

  • The shocking revelation by Mahathir that  there was no official announcement of the new category of APs, the Franchise APs, when Rafidah introduced it in 1997, and that he had not known about it although he was the Prime Minister.

  • The reluctance of Rafidah to make public all the  APs lists for the past 35 years since the introduction of APs in 1970, including during the period Mahathir was Minister for Trade and Industry from January 1978  to July 1981,  in line with Abdullah’s  pledge for accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance.

Abdullah has for far emerged unscathed in the APs scandal, having won praises for his two directives to make public the APs list for 2004 and 2005.

Johore Mentri Besar Datuk Ghani Othman has praised the “deft, yet astute, political touch” of Abdullah in handling the APs scandal, where he “kept his part of the bargain by opening the list for public scrutiny but has left it to Rafidah to do her own explaining”. (Sunday Star 31.7.05)

What is urgently needed, however, is for Abdullah to  be pro-active and not continue to be reactive in his pledge to lead a clean, incorruptible, accountable, transparent and people-oriented administration as in making public the APs list for the past 35 years instead of being forced to order the piecemeal  release of the APs list year by year.

The time has also come for the Cabinet to send a clear and unmistakable message of its full commitment to a more effective and efficient process of check-and-balance in the system of governance to ensure accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance by supporting the establishment of a Parliamentary Select Committee on International Trade and Industry in the September meeting of Parliament with a permanent brief to give parliamentary oversight and input on the expenditures, administration and policy of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, including  the national automotive policy and the issuance of APs.



*  Lim Kit Siang,Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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