Anti-climax to AP issue grilling

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 09 Oct 2005

WHAT a week it was at the Dewan Rakyat. 

After months of waiting, MPs got their chance to grill International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz last Tuesday when she turned up for question time. 

Although the House was not as full as the Friday before when Budget 2006 was tabled, the MPs present – mostly backbenchers and opposition members – knew they were going to be part of one of the more significant milestones in the history of Parliament.  

But they also knew from the outset that her attendance would be a mere cameo appearance, which seemed quite befitting of the film star status she had seemingly acquired. 

As only five MPs got the chance to directly question her, Rafidah’s whirlwind visit left many MPs disappointed.  

With the veteran minister presenting points she had already talked about previously in different forums, many felt that the most pertinent of issues were totally missed. 

“The thing which bewilders me most is how two people can get tens of thousands of APs. How is it that two people can monopolise so many APs?” Datuk Mohamad Aziz (BN - Sri Gading) asked when debating the Budget. 

He was clearly frustrated as he did not get the chance to query Rafidah during question time. 

Pointing out another fact which should have been addressed, Mohamad said what made the situation worse was the fact that one of them was an ex-Miti officer, referring to Datuk Mohd Haniff Abdul Aziz. 

Rafidah’s explanations – which occasionally had the same off-putting effect as someone reciting ministerial regulations – failed to convince many MPs. 

“The minister had answered what she was supposed to answer. Although we might not understand some of it, it is still her answer,” Mohamad said later. 

It also did not help that many could sense a certain dismissive attitude or even arrogance in the way she handled the whole affair. 

“She’s still blaming others. She should not say things like Proton is not under her jurisdiction and thus not her problem,” an Umno official said.  

One striking observation of the event was the decorum the MPs accorded Rafidah. There was virtually no interrupting, heckling, shouting, booing or table thumping. 

Of the five people who got the chance to question her, only Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang (DAP – Ipoh Timor) went on the attack, inviting the now famous “If I’m a queen, then you are the court jester” reply from her. 

This was a far cry from just the day before, when two Barisan stalwarts – Mohamad and Datuk Bung Moktar Radin (BN – Kinabatangan) – willingly supported Lim’s attempt to move a motion to refer Rafidah to the Privileges Committee over a letter sent by her secretary-general to each MP to explain how the list of MPs who had applied for APs was released. 

The MPs’ “good behaviour” could have been induced by the reprimand that Mohamad and Bung Moktar got from Barisan chief whip Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, although the actual punishment – which was light compared with what other MPs suffered for similar transgressions – was only meted out a day after Rafidah’s appearance in the Dewan. 

The tone during Tuesday’s proceedings – whether set by the chief whip or some other higher authority – did not get past Lim, who repeatedly taunted Mohamad and Bung Moktar by saying they had been dijinakkan (tamed). 

Now that the long-awaited event is being seen as an anti-climax, MPs are gearing up for their next opportunity to grill Rafidah.  

That should come during the committee and winding-up stages of the debate.  

“She will have to turn up. Only then, will we be able to really ask her the many questions which we have,” Datuk Liow Tiong Lai (BN – Bentong) said. 

It would seem that we have yet to see the last of the AP issue.  

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