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Official cars - Fed follow Trg - MGG Pillai
By web aNtu

24/12/1999 6:14 am Fri

Official Cars: Federal Government Follows Trengganu's Lead

The mew federal cabinet has discovered the Malaysian-made national car. No more would they be given the Mercedes S 320 or its equivalent. The Proton Perdana it is from now on. The enthusiasm of newly appointed ministers for exchanging the Mercedes they had as deputy ministers with a Proton Perdana know no bounds. Not just ministers; deputy ministers, parliamentary and political secretaries as well. Those currently using Mercedes Benz or Volvos must switch once these cars are replaced. The deputy education minister, Dato' Hon Choon Kim, says portentiously that "if we do not support our national car, how can we expect others to use it, especially when we are exporting it?" Indeed. And would you know, his minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamed, the younger brother of a former Malaysian amba#sador to the United States, Dato' Majid Mohamed, is already using a Proton Perdana. The deputy culture, arts and tourism minister, Dato' Ng Yen Yen, insists as "leaders we must set a good example." Indeed. The transport ministry parliamentary secretary, Mr Donald Lim, cannot wait for his official car to show it off to party members and promote it. He is terribly angry with Proton because he has to wait six months for his car. "We have to start work right away and our duties demand we travel extensively ... those responsible live up to the expectations of the customers," he adds. Indeed.

This new found enthusiasm is puzzling until you look closer. The national car has been around for more about 15 years, but the federal government until now would not make it compulsory for cabinet ministers and senior government officials to have the Proton as their official cars. When judges were given Protons on appointment, one would not be seen dead in it, preferring to use his personal Mercedes instead. No cabinet minister has thought it, until now, in the national interest or supporting local industry to demand a Proton Perdana instead of a Mercedes S series car. The federal authorities insisted upon imported cars because it is a nice line of business for a Mr Robert Tan, a business a#sociate of the finance minister, and a member of the Bin Mahathir clan; they have the lucrative contract to provide these cars for official use. They concentrate on foreign cars, and this insistence on Proton Perdanas would cut into their balance sheets.

But the government really had no choice. The new Trengganu state administration decided that its state executive councillors and senior government officials would have Proton Perdanas, not the BMWs the outgoing administration insisted befitted their status. Suddenly, the new mentri besar of Perak, Dato' Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali, follows suit. The other states would have to. Suddenly, official extravagance is a political issue. The federal government has couched its order in nationalistic terms. But for the first time since the Proton came on the streets, one can see it used as a vehicle of preference. Though that not one UMNO member is quoted at this change does suggest that the move is resented in some quarters. I now await to see the works ministers, Dato' Seri S. Samy Vellu, travel in a Proton Perdana, his wife trailing in a grander Mercedes S Cla#s. No doubt the Road Transport Department would allow him his favourite "1818" number plate.

The National Front, despite its huge parliamentary majority, has lost its edge in the current parliament. The intensity of debate, even on the propriety of holding cabinet meetings when parliament is in session, underlines the fine-tuning it must do to seize the initiative. The foreign minister is forced to explain his meeting with the Israel foreign minister, which insists was an accidental meeting as it was that he had a letter from the Prime Minister to the Israel Prime Minister in his briefcase at the time. The Prime Minister and his administration came out second best in the opening debate, the doubts about the legality of the Parliament sitting, and the debate on Israel, suggests that the opposition forces the primacy of Parliament in governance. When the government is under opposition pressure on matters of policy and propriety, it cannot afford to be caught short on such a simple matter as the official car. It now has to give more than lip service to the Proton car.

The government is shaken so badly that it would move swiftly to be seen as representatives of the people. No more would there be this arrogant insistence that having elected them into power, the people should shut up and let it carry on with its work. The Opposition Leader, Dato' Fadhil Noor, and his band of MPs challenges that a#sumption. So long as the government was Malay and the Opposition Chinese, the government could ride roughshod. With a Malay opposition leader, that is no longer possible. Besides, it is caught in a conundrum as far as the PAS administration in Trengganu is concerned. One senior cabinet minister insists it has the most carefully-thought out state executive councillor in the country today, each appointed for their specific skills. Unlike Selangor, which has appointed a security guard on to the state executive council -- after his candidacy got UMNO angry. The National Front has, I am afraid, much to learn.

M.G.G. Pillai

Link Reference : Proxy List Dec 1999