AP issue not resolved yet, says Dr Mahathir

Thursday, September 22, 2005

(Bernama) -- Former Prime Minister and Proton adviser Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad says the controversy surrounding Approved Permits to import cars is still unresolved as concerns still linger over the high number of permits issued and more so with only two persons getting a huge number of the APs.

"Those (two) people, as far as I can make out, passed the APs onto other people. They don't do anything. I suppose when they passed it to other people there must have been some payment," he said.

"If they received some payment, they must have made quite a lot of money. How much (income) tax have they paid on the profit that they have made?," he said at a press conference after delivering a keynote address at the seminar on "Success Mindset: Transforming Impossible To Reality."

"If the permits are to be given out, give them to as many people as possible. Giving 16,000 APS for just one person and all together 30,000 for two persons...whereas those who have showrooms and are in the auto business do not get any," he said.

He said giving the bulk of the APs to just two persons was not helping the Bumiputera policy to nurture entrepreneurs in the auto sector.

Dr Mahathir also said the 337 Members of Parliament (MPs) and former MPs who received APs released yesterday "is nothing."

"That is a policy. MPs are eligible and any other person is also eligible if they want to import a special car not sold here and for their own use," he said.

"If there are people who buy cars for their own use, we give it to them, especially Malaysian diplomats who want to bring back their cars from foreign countries," he said.

"What is of concern is not the issue of APs, but the number of APs issued, he said.

"If there are many imported cars coming in, locally made cars would not have brisk sales.

"We are still very much concerned about the volume and secondly over why a huge number was given only to two persons," he said.

Dr Mahathir also said that he has yet to meet Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz over the APs issue, although they met on Merdeka where the latter hugged him and cried.

Rafidah, in a written reply yesterday at the Dewan Rakyat, said 337 APs were issued to MPs and former MPs between 2000 and Sept 12, this year.

The controversy over APs, which are needed for the import of foreign-made motorcars into the country, came about when Dr Mahathir, in defending Proton, claimed that APs were abused to the extent that imported cars were being under-declared and hence brought in very cheaply which led to unfair competition to the country's first national carmaker.

Rafidah has denied the allegations, saying instead that it was Proton that was not performing well in overseas markets.

Dr Mahathir then asked for the APs list to be made public following which the Prime Minister's Office released the first list of recipients.

This created an uproar as it revealed that three people, Tan Sri Nasimuddin SM AMin, Datuk Syed Azman Syed Ibrahim and Datuk Mohd Haniff Abdul Aziz, held the bulk of the 67,157 APS to import cars this year.

Questions were also raised as to how 20 companies were given 80 percent of the APs as this severely limited the policy to develop bumiputera auto entrepreneurs.

APs also became a major issue at this year's UMNO General Assembly and Rafidah made a lengthy reply on the matter.

While there were many who felt that the issuance of APs needed to be tightened, some also criticised Rafidah for the way she handled the issue, including the manner she responded to Dr Mahathir, who said the minister, one of the longest serving ministers since the 1970s, had misled UMNO members on the matter.