MALAYS have broken the Chinese monopoly of importing foreign cars by securing the sole right to import them from the principal companies and this is something to be proud of, said Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz.
Defending the approved permit (AP) policy for imported cars which recently came under attack from the delegates, the International Trade and Industry Minister said cars from makers like Honda, Suzuki and Audi were controlled by Chinese companies 30 years ago.
“Before, we never thought bumiputra would get the opportunity. But these young Malays went abroad and succeeded in taking the monopoly away,” she said when winding up at the Umno general assembly yesterday.
However, the Wanita Umno chief received boos and lukewarm applause during her address, and permanent chairman Tan Sri Onn Ismail had to interject a few times to appeal for calm from the floor.
Rafidah threw a challenge to the Umno Youth delegates who had ticked her off and poked fun over the AP issue during the debates and asked her to give them some.
“The Youth asked for 25 APs to be given for each division. No problem with that. But first they must set up a company, make sure 70% of the equity is held by bumiputras, then go overseas and try to secure the right to become the sole importer here of a particular car.
“They must also have a signed agreement with the principal company. There are still so many French and Italian cars which are still not in the Malaysian market,” she added.
She said currently 36 bumiputra companies, which had fulfilled these requirements, had secured APs to bring in 44 makes of cars.
“But to me, the number is still so small. There are so many other brands,” she added.
She also said the ministry does not give out APs indiscriminately.
If a company received 100 APs for a particular year, she said, but only brought in 50 cars that year, it would be given only 50 APs the following year.
Last week, the Government released a list of APs for this year, which comprised the open AP and the franchise AP categories.
Of the 67,000 issued, more than 28,000 went to four individuals – Tan Sri Nasimuddin S.M. Amin, Datuk Syed Azman Syed Ibrahim, Datuk Mohd Haniff Abdul Aziz and Datuk Azzuddin Ahmad.
Rafidah also spoke of nasty rumours on the ground claiming that Nasimuddin of Naza Motors was her “son” from her purported first husband.
“How crazy is that? I am 62 years old and Nasimuddin is 52 years old. Does this mean I gave birth at the age of 10?” she asked incredulously.
She gave her word that she would never break her oath in office, and urged delegates to have an open mind on the AP issue.
She said there were only 76 companies left in the open AP category which still got permits to bring in cars and even they have formed eight consortiums among themselves.
As for claims there were still people or companies selling each AP for RM20,000 to RM30,000, Rafidah urged delegates to furnish her with details and proof.
On the competition against Proton, Rafidah said the number of APs issued was a maximum of 10% of the total number of cars produced locally each year.
Even then, she said the Government made sure that the imported cars were at least RM6,000 more expensive than the Proton and Perodua cars or up to RM18,000.
At the start of her winding-up address, Rafidah had thanked delegates for speaking up on the AP issue, saying that their concern on government policy was appropriate.
“It is better for me to hear criticism from Umno members. If not from them, who else? I prefer it if Umno members criticise than have this coming from the Opposition,” she added.
Rafidah also said that in all her 30 years in government, she had never received so much publicity.
“The papers put my round face, crying face on the front page and with all pores exposed,” she said.
She ended her speech with a three-stanza poem:
Dasar AP sudah dihuraikan. Tiada apa yang hendak disembunyikan. Melayu berjaya kita banggakan. Bukti bangsa mampu, berkebolehan.
Syarikat francais mengimport kereta jenama ternama antarabangsa. Jangan curiga sesama kita. Menabur fitnah membuat dosa.
Kereta dijual di rumah kedai. Pengedar dilantik seluruh negara. Agenda Melayu belum selesai Bersamalah kita menjayakannya.
(The AP policy has been explained. There is nothing to hide. The success of Malays is something to be proud of. It proves the race is able and capable.
The franchise companies import cars of internationally renowned brand names. Don’t let us have suspicion among ourselves. Slandering is a sin.
Cars are sold in shoplots. Distributors are appointed all over the country. The Malay agenda is unfinished. Together let us make it a success.)
Rafidah, when met by reporters later, said she was not rattled by the jeering as she had 30 years' experience on the stage.
“My explanation was not just to the delegates but to the public and even foreigners because foreign car producers may look at our AP issue as something suspicious,” she said.
On a lighter note, she said she was the main entertainer at the assembly.
“I am willing to go around the country to explain the issue,” she added.