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I’ll not tell Rafidah to jump from Petronas Twin Tower, KLCC – as the issues at stake are nothing personal, but concern the credibility and success of the Prime Minister’s pledge of accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance
This is because there is nothing personal between us in my pressing for accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance whether in the AP scandal, the controversial Proton national car and national automotive policy, or other aspects of MITI decisions, whether policy, macro or micro.
What is indisputable is that Rafidah has failed to give convincing, satisfactory and acceptable explanations to the multitude of questions swirling around the AP scandal and national automotive policy controversy, as reflected by the virtual unanimity of views by all MPs, whether Barisan Nasional or Opposition.
Rafidah claims in the NST interview that she had “answered all there is to be answered on the AP issue”. I will be very surprised if a poll of MPs could turn up more than a handful of MPs who are prepared to go public to declare that Rafidah had answered all that has to be answered on the AP scandal and that there is no need for her to make another parliamentary appearance to give proper accountability on the AP scandal.
In actual fact, Rafidah has left more questions unanswered instead of having “answered all there is to be answered”. For instance, she has not fully answered my question of Sept. 20 which had sparked such a storm with the release of what Rafidah claims to be a partial and unauthorized list of MPs allocated with APs – as I had asked for a full list of all APs issued whether to open, franchise or individual AP receipients in the past 27 years since 1978.
Only yesterday, MPs from both osides of the House were united in telling the Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Mah Siew Keong to secure an assurance from Rafidah that she would appear in Parliament during the winding-up of the 2006 Budget debate in the middle of the month to personally reply to issues raised concerning MITI.
I admit that in the past four months, I had not let up pressure on Rafidah to demand full disclosure and accountability on the AP scandal and the Proton and national automotive policy controversy.
The issues involved are larger than Rafidah personally, APs or MITI – for if Rafidah can successfully stonewall legitimate demands for full disclosure, accountability, transparency and integrity on the AP scandal, then it reflects a larger and very serious crisis in the public polity and governance under the new Prime Minister.
It can only mean that despite nearly two years of the premiership of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his repeated pledges of far-reaching reforms in government accountability and integrity as well as an unprecedented general election mandate of 92% parliamentary majority, not much have changed. In fact, in many areas, things have got worse – or the towering arrogance of Rafidah, showing contempt not only to the populace, Members of Parliament but even to her other Cabinet colleagues would not have become so blatant, intolerable and such a public spectacle.
The NST carried a front-page banner of the exclusive interview with Rafidah, blaring her statement: “If the Prime Minister asks me to resign, I will certainly resign”.
The superficial reaction to this banner presents Rafidah is a very positive, humble and even magnanimous light, although some thought will show that such a statement is utterly meaningless and even quite arrogant. Under our system of Cabinet government under the UK model, does a Minister have any other option if he or she is asked to resign by the Prime Minister?
I am quite intrigued by her “go jump into the lake” outburst, for it was not just directed at me. Let me quote in full her “go jump into the lake” jewel of a statement:
“Q: Kit Siang had said it was better if you resigned.
“A: I couldn’t care a damn what Lim Kit Siang asked me to do. He is not the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister is Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. If the Prime Minister asks me to resign, I will certainly resign.
Lim Kit Siang can go jump into the lake ... and this goes for anybody else. I was appointed by the Prime Minister. I am in service at his pleasure and no one should try to usurp the Prime Minister’s prerogative about any minister in his Cabinet.
Don’t let anybody think that they are equal (to) or above the Prime Minister.
And, so far, the Prime Minister has said nothing less than full support for what I am doing. For this I am very very happy and (it) has motivated me to even work harder. I say this not to "mengampu" the Prime Minister.
I say this with clear conscience and I say this as a member of his Cabinet who wants to see him succeed as a Prime Minister, who wants to see him lead this country through the many challenges we are facing now and will face from now on into the future.”
Any discerning and sharp-minded political observer would have noted that she was not just referring to me, and in fact I was not her main target, but “anybody else” with the warning that “no one should try to usurp the Prime Minister’s prerogative about any minister in Cabinet”, and even more serious, those who think that “they are equal (to) or above the Prime Minister”.
My reading is that she is more worked up against these unnamed persons than me, for it is these “anybody else” who are “trying to usurp the Prime Minister’s prerogative” about her ministerial position – and they point at other Cabinet Ministers and even the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Has she now realized that although she is the second longest-serving Cabinet Minister after Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, having just celebrated her 25th anniversary of her first Cabinet appointment in September 1980, she has very few friends, supporters and sympathizers left in Cabinet?
Is this the reason why she had to appear at the Cabinet meeting yesterday, although she was supposed to start her medical leave for a knee-cap operation yesterday? And is this why, as revealed by his deputy Minister, Mah Siew Keong, to reporters in Parliament, although she will be on one-month medical leave she would still be handling official duties during her three-week recuperation period. Is she afraid that a strong Acting MITI Minister would be appointed during her one-month full medical leave who might discover a lot of skeletons in her cupboard in MITI?
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