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Notice for urgent parliamentary debate on Wednesday on European Commission Ambassador’s controversial critical speech on NEP and the country’s declining FDIs and competitiveness

Media Conference         
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Parliament, Monday): I have given notice to the Speaker, Tan Sri Ramli Ngah to move a motion of urgent definite public importance on Wednesday on the controversial speech by the European Commission Ambassador to Malaysia Thierry Rommel critical of the New Economic Policy and the country’s declining FDIs and competitiveness. 

 The motion I have submitted is as follows: 

“That under Standing Order 18(1), the House gives leave to Ketua Pembangkang  YB Lim Kit Siang to move a motion of urgent definite public importance, viz:  the speech by European Commission Ambassador to Malaysia Thierry Rommel critical of the New Economic Policy (NEP) and the country’s productivity and competitiveness losing out in foreign direct investment. 

“Last Thursday, speaking at the EUMCCI luncheon talk of local and foreign businessmen, Rommel said the NEP was discriminatory and amounted to protectionism against foreign companies. 

“He added that the Government was using the NEP as an excuse to practise ‘significant protectionism of its own market,’ including the automotive sector, steel, consumer goods, agricultural products, services and government contracts. 

“In his speech, Rommel also gave a  ‘factual, non-emotional’ six-point critique of Malaysia’s productivity and competitiveness, viz:

  • human capital development and the public education system;
  • the public service delivery system;
  • transparency and predictability in the ‘rules of the game’ concerning government regulations, decisions affecting business, public procurement;
  • corruption;
  • the rule of law to everyone; and
  • security - physical, administrative and legal.

“The Deputy Prime Minister, the Education Minister and the Foreign Minister have accused Rommel of meddling in the internal affairs of the country and of being ‘arrogant’ and having ‘overstepped his authority’.

“Although the Deputy Prime Minister said Rommel’s speech was ‘factually disputable’, this has not been done. What does the government propose to do if Rommel can factually back up his criticisms when summoned to explain his speech?

“It is more important for Malaysia’s international image as a democratic and progressive country prepared to face the challenges of globalization  that Rommel’s speech should be openly disputed than to shut him up.

“Parliament should have an urgent debate to show the world that the nation and government is prepared to face criticism.”

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has said that Rommel’s remarks are “factually disputable” while the Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said that Rommel’s statement was not based on facts.

However, up to now, Najib, Hamid and Umno Youth leader Datuk Seri Hisammuddin Hussein, who is spearheading a Barisan Nasional youth protest against Rommel’s speech, have not laid out the facts to prove Rommel wrong, which should be the “smart” way of operation in an information and knowledge era with the advent of information and communications technologies.

Hishammuddin should clarify whether he has the full authority of MCA Youth, Gerakan Youth, MIC Youth, SUPP Youth and youth wings of other Barisan Nasional parties to speak on their behalf on this issue – and if so, why the other BN Youth leaders have been so conspicuously silent.

I have no doubt that if Rommel had praised the NEP and the productivity and competitiveness policies of the Barisan Nasional government, there would be no protests but full of praises and and even bouquets for Rommel.

Rommel has denied in today’s press that he had any intention to meddle in Malaysia’s domestic affairs and that it was not the rationale of his speech.

He clarified that the NEP would have bearing on the negotiations with the Free Trade Agreement between EU and ASEAN and that the bumiputra policy is an issue on the horizon, as it would limit room to manoeuvre for Malaysian negotiations due to the open nature of the FTA itself.

Instead of protests and saber-rattling by Hishammuddin and the Barisan Nasional Youth, the most sensible and productive response is to ask for full clarification from Rommel and to have a full debate in Parliament.


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

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