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Abdullah should personally co-ordinate the replies by the relevant Ministries to ensure they do not undermine and destroy his credibility, legacy and premiership by giving the impression that there are two Prime Ministers or there is no Prime Minister
I had always maintained that while Abdullah need not personally answer Mahathir’s questions, the issues raised by Mahathir must nonetheless be responded to by the Abdullah administration in line with the principles of accountability, transparency and good governance, not because he is former Prime Minister but because he is a citizen of a democratic polity.
There must nonetheless be some consistency, cohesion and even discipline in the replies by the relevant Ministers, which seems to be woefully absent. Within 24 hours of Abdullah’s announcement that the government will give detailed replies to the issues raised by Mahathir, three different and even contradictory Ministerial responses are evident.
Firstly, there is the hostile attitude of the Minister for International Trade and Industry, Datuk Paduka Rafidah Aziz, who seemed to be breaking ranks with the Prime Minister’s decision by indicating that there is nothing more to explain as far as the APs and Proton/Tengku Mahaleel issues are concerned.
This is the clear implication of the statement by the Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister, Ng Lip Yong who told Sin Chew Daily that there was nothing more to explain with regard to these two issues, as everything had been explained, and that the question is whether Mahathir wants to accept them or not.
Nobody would believe that Ng would dare to make such a statement, implicitly defying the Prime Minister, without the authorization or specific directive of his Minister.
If Rafidah and Ng are right, that there is no more explanation to offer on these two issues specifically raised by Mahathir, why then did Abdullah promise a “detailed” explanation? Never mind about showing no respect for the former Prime Minister, both of them are not even showing respect for the current Prime Minister!
I might add that I reject their contention that there is nothing more for the Ministry of International Trade and Industry to explain about the APs and Proton controversies, as what had been explained officially hardly touched the surface of the two issues as there are a thousand questions crying for answer!
The second Ministerial reaction came from the Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, who said that his Ministry will “tell all”, including declassifying documents pertaining to controversial agreements and correspondence with Singapore to clear any confusion over issues raised by Mahathir.
Hamid said his Ministry was ready to reveal “everything”, including the outstanding bilateral issues between Malaysia and Singapore, the negotiations Wisma Putra had facilitated, the controversial points of agreement (POA) between Malaysia and Singapore when Mahathir was prime minister, still- classified correspondence between both countries, and other details.
He said: “We will tell all, based on the facts we have, and let the public decide what the real situation is.”
This is a most commendable approach, which should have been taken long ago. It is nonetheless better late than never.
The third Ministerial response came from the Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu who announced that he is seeking an appointment with Mahathir to explain to him the decision and directive regarding his ministry's projects he had questioned. Samy said he would also submit a written explanation to the former prime minister.
This gives the impression that Samy Vellu is seeking approval or at least clearance for his explanation, or that the Minister is preparing an explanation which are only for the “eyes’ of the former Prime Minister – which is not only against the public interest, but creates the whiff that there are two Prime Ministers in the country. This is in contrast to the defiance implied in the response of Rafidah and Ng, as if there is no Prime Minister at all!
Abdullah must get the Cabinet act together if his Ministers’ diverse and conflicting reactions are not to destroy his credibility, legacy and premiership.
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission