KUALA LUMPUR: The Cabinet has ordered Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz to appear in Parliament as soon as possible to reply to questions on the approved permits (APs) controversy.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the Cabinet made the order because Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had said that ministers must give priority to Parliament as it is an important institution.
“Rafidah will make a statement in Parliament. It is a Cabinet decision. The Cabinet can decide on anything,” Najib told newsmen at Parliament yesterday when asked to comment on Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang’s remarks about the International Trade and Industry Minister’s poor attendance.
Rafidah, who was in Vientiane, Laos, attending the Asean Economic Ministers meeting, has denied that she is shirking her responsibility to Parliament, saying she was abroad working for the country.
On Tuesday, Lim said in Parliament that Rafidah was behaving like a “queen” and “above Parliament,” and she topped the list of ministers with the worst record in parliamentary attendance. He added she had only attended 19 sittings in the past six years.
The Cabinet decision is unprecedented, especially in-volving a very senior minister.
Lim said the Cabinet should ask for her resignation as minister if she was not prepared to stop her “imperial ministership.”
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz said Rafidah would have to abide by the Cabinet order to personally explain in the Dewan Rakyat the AP issue and the publication of the list of individuals including MPs and Senators who received APs.
“We (the Cabinet) discussed the MPs’ unhappiness over the list which caused them embarrassment,” he said.
He said the MPs would not accept the explanation that it was the negligence and oversight of a ministry official who attached the list as additional information to a written reply to Lim.
Nazri said Rafidah who is attending the South-East Asian ministerial meeting in Vien-tiane could pick a day to come to Parliament before sittings end on Dec 8.
On whether Rafidah had been informed about the directive, he said it was the responsibility of the Chief Secretary to the Government to tell her.
MPs from both Barisan Nasional and the Opposition lauded the Cabinet order but regretted that the Cabinet had to direct a senior minister to attend Parliament sittings.
Backbenchers Club chairman Datuk Shahrir Samad said Rafidah as a senior minister should have known better how to deal with the situation.
“If she still refuses (to attend Parliament), it would be a serious situation.
“Her attitude has always been like, ‘This is my ministry. It is not even the Government’s’.”
Lim said Rafidah had shown contempt for MPs by refusing to attend Parliament.
Tumpat MP Datuk Kamarudd in Jaafar, who is PAS secretary-general, said Rafidah had neglected her responsibilities to her constituency by skipping Parlia-ment.
Jasin MP Datuk Mohd Said Yusof said everyone was waiting for Rafidah’s replies.
“I was the one who brought up the AP issue during the Umno General Assembly and I have a lot of questions for her.”
Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Moktar Radin said: “Something is not clear. We know she is hiding something.”
Bentong MP Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said Rafidah should have known the urgency of replying to questions on the AP.
“Deputy ministers have tried to answer, but the MPs are not happy.
“There are 15 questions covering issues on the AP and it is good for her to compile the answers.”
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