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Rafidah should be removed as International Trade and Industry Minister if she continues to be stubborn, recalcitrant and refuses to come to Parliament to personally reply on behalf of her ministry in the five-day Ninth Malaysia Plan debate ministerial winding-up beginning on Thursday
by Lim Kit Siang
The present Parliamentary meeting has met for 21 days and she has only attended twice, the official opening of the parliamentary session by the Yang di Pertuan Agong on March 13 and the presentation of the Ninth Malaysia Plan by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on March 31.
She attended both occasions like a royal personage, probably among the reasons that both were telecast live which would have highlighted her absence in the front-bench to the national audience. She had not, however, attended Parliament for a single occasion in the past 21 days whether to answer questions or to reply to MPs’ speeches in debates.
Will Rafidah continue to hide and run away from her parliamentary duties in the next 15 days of the current parliamentary meeting, scheduled to end on May 11?
The last time Rafidah had appeared in Parliament to perform her parliamentary duties was on October 4 last year when she had to be directed by the Cabinet to turn up in Parliament to answer questions on the APs scandal during question time, but her question-and-answer session was a great disappointment not only to the Opposition MPs but also the Barisan Nasional MPs.
Since then, she had continued with her absence and truancy from Parliament, failing to turn up in Parliament whether during question time or to reply on Ministry of International Trade and Industry issues whether during the debates on the 2006 Budget at the end of last year or during the debate on the Royal Address last month, when there were so many questions which only she herself could answer satisfactorily, particularly pertaining to the APs scandal.
At the Cabinet meeting tomorrow, the Prime Minister should convey to Rafidah in no uncertain terms that she would have to relinquish her Cabinet post as Minister for International Trade and Industry if she regards her parliamentary responsibilities as to beneath her “regal” position.
Many issues concerning her ministry await her answer in Parliament during the winding-up of the Ninth Malaysia Plan debate, whether international competitiveness, decline in FDIs, the national automotive policy, FTA negotiations with United States, Australia, New Zealand and other countries, as well as the many unanswered questions about the APs scandal accumulated since last year.
It is most scandalous that the system of Cabinet Government in Malaysia had developed in so “crooked” a fashion that the Cabinet had to direct a Minister to attend Parliament to discharge one of the most basic of Ministerial functions.
The whole idea of having a “First World Parliament” becomes a joke when a Minister could conduct herself as if she is the “Queen in Parliament” who could treat Parliament and MPs with utter contempt and could get away with immunity and impunity.
MPs and Malaysians will not forget her comment after she was retained as Minister for International Trade and Industry in the February Cabinet recycle - "Even if they talk until they foam at the mouth, if God says you stay, you stay,"
All Ministers had been directed by the Prime Minister to be conscientious in their parliamentary duties and to personally appear in Parliament to answer question and reply to MPs’ speeches. Rafidah is the only exception.
Has Rafidah been given the dispensation from having to appear and discharge her parliamentary duties to give satisfactory accounting to MPs for the performance of her ministerial responsibilities?
If the Malaysian system of parliamentary democracy is not to become an international laughing-stock, there is just no place for a Cabinet Minister who is not prepared to accept parliamentary accountability as one of the most important and non-delegable Ministerial duties.
If the Prime Minister thinks so highly of Rafidah’s skills and abilities in international trade negotiations, whether World Trade Organisation (WTO) or bilateral vis-à-vis the slew of Free Trade Agreements (FTA) on Malaysia’s plate of agenda, Abdullah can appoint Rafidah as a WTO/FTA Special Envoy with roving international responsibilities with does not require her to report directly to Parliament and appoint a new Minister for International Trade and Industry who does not abdicate from the Ministerial responsibility of reporting as well as accounting directly to Parliament.
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission