Ex-Malaysian minister slams ‘plodding’ Asean

Sri Rafidah Aziz. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Asean members have been told to buck up their ideas by former Malaysian minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz who said regional governments should stop talking about politics and instead take action to improve economic competitiveness.

The former international trade and industry minister said governments should take steps that would benefit the marketplace and industries in both the goods and services sectors.

She told a press conference that global markets were highly competitive, and it would be unfortunate if the Asean Economic Community (AEC) was demoted to a “has-been” regional entity.

She added that if one member was languishing, the rest should find out why and help it.

“Maybe they say we don’t have the lawyers, in that case, we can second the lawyers for six months, for example, to write the legislation. This is obviously not done because they keep saying not yet, not yet, they have not met the timeframes.

“These timeframes were supposed to lead to 2015, if something that was supposed to happen in 2008 only happened in 2014, what can you expect to happen in 2015? Nothing.”

She added that unnecessary courtesy and diplomatic language had moved the AEC backwards.

“If we dispense with these embellishments of our relations and get to the bottom of these issues, Asean will be an invigorated entity economically, politically, socio-culturally.

“And Asean will be a region of over 600 million people that everybody will have to contend with and show interest in, mark my words.

“People are not interested in Asean because they see it as a ‘plodding along’ entity, many meetings and hoo-haa and money spent on flags and celebrations by all the countries, but no results,” Rafidah told the media.

In March 2008, following Malaysia’s general election, she was sacked from the cabinet, despite winning her parliamentary seat when other ministers had lost theirs. After 32 years in government service, and 20 years as a minister, she described herself as being “blessed and content”.

But she added that she wished then prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had told her earlier not to contest the election.