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Shahrir’s unprovoked attack on me reflects the depth of his pining to return to the Cabinet in a reshuffle after 18 years in the political wilderness


Media Statement

by Lim Kit Siang  

, Friday): I am surprised that the Chairman of the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club Datuk Shahrir Samad has launched an unprovoked attack on me.

In an interview with New Straits Times today, he blamed my “intervention” and “ego” during Tuesday’s  question time when the  Minister for International Trade and Industry, Datuk Paduka Rafidah Aziz made her 31st appearance in six years in Parliament as a result of a specific Cabinet directive to answers questions about the AP scandal and the national automotive policy controversy.

He accused me of being “unproductive”. Even more serious, he accused me of acting like a politician and compromising my position as a parliamentarian.  I do not believe even   Barisan Nasional MPs understand what he is talking about. In fact, I do not think Shahrir himself  really knows what he is talking about, or is he prepared to have a public debate to defend his unprovoked attack on me?

Shahrir launched his attack on me from the very start of the NST interview, as follows:

Q: You have said that Members of Parliament had basically wasted their chance to ask Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz the questions they should have posed on Tuesday in the Dewan Rakyat. Could you elaborate on this?

It is more because of the intervention by the leader of the Opposition (Lim Kit Siang) and also due to the character of the person. One problem politicians have is their ego and sometimes the Opposition Leader in his feeling that he will be the one who can break the shell or destroy the minister, in his haste to do so and show the Government is inefficient, tends to introduce other aspects and issues into the mix.

So in this case when he stood up to ask the minister, as usual and as expected, he added his personal criticisms of the minister which were not related to the issue. So that allowed the minister to just reply to the non-related matters and not even answer the question...

So what I’m saying is very simple. We sometimes have to forget that we are politicians and remember that we are parliamentarians. That way, we can be productive, ask questions, and get results and answers. If we want to score points with our rivals, then our position as parliamentarians is compromised.

Shahrir is a bundle of contradictions in the NST interview, as illustrated by the following instances:                                                                                

  • Shahrir  accused me of allowing Rafidah to avoid full accountability during question time because of my “intervention” and “ego”, yet in the next  breath in the interview, he admitted: In Parliament a minister can deny, deny and deny. And he has immunity.” This was what Rafidah was doing on Tuesday.

  • When asked what about the questions by the BN  MPs, as I asked only the second of six supplementary questions with the rest all asked by BN, Shahrir simply dumped the responsibility of the failure of the BN MPs on  me on the ridiculous ground that “the mood had changed when the leader opened his mouth and behaved like a politician”.  If so,  what is the use of the Barisan Nasional having 92 per cent majority in Parliament when one Opposition MP can change the entire dynamics in the whole House?

  • When asked how he would have crafted the questions to Rafidah, Shahrir made the most damning statement in the NST interview: “My own personal feeling is that I have no more interest in the AP issue. But unfortunately apparently there is no closure.”  If Shahrir has “no more interest in the AP issue”, what right has he to pass  judgment on other MPs  persisting in seeking answers on behalf of Malaysians who have not abandoned their interest and commitment for accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance?

  • Shahrir’s attempt to  blame me for MPs wasting their chance to ask Rafidah is contradicted by his statement  repeated more than once in the interview that the whole Q&A  and even requiring Rafidah to turn up in Parliament to account to MPs were  a waste of time, as reflected by the  following extracts from his interview:

“The AP issue is perhaps the one issue the Government has been very open and transparent about. All the information has been given, the questions have been answered. Now it’s the question of judgment and making a decision on whether what we have done is right or not.”

“But as far as I was concerned, it (AP issue) was already closed when it was announced the AP and the National Automotive Industry Policy would be handled by the Prime Minister’s Department. I was surprised that at the end of the day, instead of JPM (Jabatan Perdana Menteri) answering the question, it was MITI answering.”

“But if it was me, I think it (AP issue)  is no more an issue. Of course, the Opposition is out to get some more blood.”

Clearly, though BBC Chairman, Shahrir had drifted far far away not only from the innermost feelings of MPs, whether Barisan Nasional or Opposition, but even from  the public at large – regarding the whole Q&A session of Rafidah a total waste of time, not just  because of my “intervention” and “ego”, but because the government had been “very open and transparent” and had answered all questions and given  all the necessary information.

Shahrir is probably a minority of one among parliamentary backbenchers, whether BN or Opposition, to hold such a view.  In the past two days, for instance, the AP scandal and the controversy over the national automotive policy continued to dominate the Budget debate, whether in the speeches of BN  or Opposition MPs.

I challenge Shahrir to walk the streets and his constituency  of Johore Baru with me to find out whether he has the right pulse of his constituents (let alone the people of Malaysia) in holding that there was  no need for any Q&A on the AP scandal in Parliament or for Rafidah to appear to answer questions on the national automotive policy.

Shahrir is the last person to accuse other MPs of not being “productive” when he had not asked a single question or supplementary question in the past three weeks of parliamentary meeting. I checked the Order Paper for the entire current budget meeting and found to my shock that Shahrir had not submitted a single oral question  for the 41-day budget meeting!

A total of 275 questions for written answer were also submitted for this session, but again not a single one from Shahrir, when other former Ministers like Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Tan Sri Law Hieng Ding and Dr. Ting Chew Peh had been quite productive and diligent in the performance of their parliamentary duties with their questions to keep the government on its  toes.

It is clear that Shahrir’s mind, heart and soul are no more with  Parliament or the backbenchers, least of all with the problem of parliamentary productivity and how to ensure that  the Malaysian Parliament becomes a First World Parliament.

He is pining for his lost political opportunities and a return to the Cabinet after 18 years in the political wilderness since 1987 after serving as Cabinet Minister for four short years – though with the distinction of being the youngest Cabinet Minister to be appointed at the age of 34.  Shahrir was Minister of Federal Territory from 1983 and Minister for Welfare from 1986 – 1987.

But Shahrir should not try to buy a ticket to return to the Cabinet in the impending and long-overdue Cabinet reshuffle at the expense of parliamentary credibility by acting as executive spokesman to stall parliamentary scrutiny of the AP scandal, claiming that there was no need to question Rafidah anymore on the spurious ground that the  government could not be more open and transparent in the handling of the AP scandal.   There is of course another reason for Shahrir’s shocking stance, which I will leave for another occasion.



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

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