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Rafizi's unwarranted cynicism towards national car project

Akhramsyah Sanusi  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | I note with bemusement PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli's continued projection of himself as Dr Mahathir Mohamad's government's chief critic on behalf of “the rakyat”.

I am amused as this coincides with his contesting for the deputy presidency of PKR against incumbent Azmin Ali, a senior minister in the same government. In such a scenario, one must question Rafizi's true motives.

Rafizi, of course, is in this position due to him first declining then being disqualified (or expected to be disqualified) from contesting in the 14th general election due to his court case. He formed and ran Invoke instead of assisting Pakatan Harapan's campaign.

Hence, he is now one of the most senior Harapan leaders without a role in government. This is not really that awkward as even incoming PKR president and de facto leader of Harapan, Anwar Ibrahim himself, is without a post.

In his most recent critique, Rafizi chose to question the wisdom of Mahathir's government's new national car initiative.

However, his critique fails to note the repeated pronouncements by the government that it is to be private sector-driven, and hence should not unduly burden the public coffers. He then presents the following suggestions:

  • That the excise duties for cars currently purportedly protecting our national cars be abolished. This is of course very populist, but it is surprisingly shortsighted of Rafizi to suggest considering the implications for not just the Proton and Perodua, but also all marquees built and assembled in Malaysia, not just now, but also in the context of the coming Asean Free Trade Area (AFTA).
  • That all such key decisions be discussed at the Harapan presidential council first - which is of course, very anti-democratic. And of course, it is also so inefficient. Should I then also table a motion with the Bersatu supreme council to support the new national car initiative? Actually, it sounds a little nuts… like Umno nuts. 

The last I remember, the nation did not vote for the Harapan presidential council to govern Malaysia. We voted for the majority of Harapan MPs to be chosen on a platform of having Mahathir as prime minister. Mahathir was then duly chosen by the majority of MPs to be sworn in as prime minister.

If Rafizi finds the notion of a new national car so objectionable, he should, of course, voice out, but please don't make Harapan seem so anti-democratic. 

Why not have PKR parliamentarians raise it in the last session, or indeed ask Azmin as economic affairs minister or even Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail to raise objections in the cabinet? Isn't that how it is supposed to work now Harapan is in power?

The shell of cynicism

Now back to the new national car initiative. Much of the reaction to it so far has been very knee-jerk.

Malaysians complain about Proton and laud Perodua, forgetting both are national cars and Perodua could not have happened without Proton, and that a growing overseas manufacturer, Geely, saw enough value to buy 49.9 percent of Proton, with their prior acquisitions including Volvo.

More importantly, Malaysians who are against the new national car, including Rafizi, have been too cynical to ask the proper questions and hence have also not listened sufficiently to the answers given. Why are we pursuing the new national car? Many also have not reflected on what we gained from the original national car project.

Just as with the original national car project, the new one will allow Malaysia to participate in areas of high technology and industry currently less present on our shores, that will hence bring new manufacturing, technology and other associated economic activities to the country. This means jobs and an opportunity to invest as well as grow the economy away from the current status quo, but with a twist.

When Proton was mooted, the combustion engine car was pretty much mature as a technology. We were always going to succeed as an assembler, like Thailand has, but Mahathir demanded more. 

We ended up with the capacity to develop enough homegrown content so that a higher percentage of economic activity and, critically, expertise from making and assembling cars remained in Malaysia. With it also came a raft of other associated economic activities, such as our capacity to grow our engineering base into making everything from motorcycles to oil and gas platforms.

With the new national car, we are potentially joining the new technological race for the next generation of automobiles, essentially electric vehicles (EVs) whether they be battery (BEV) or partial-hybrid (PH-EV).

If successful, we will be opening our nation to the development and manufacturing of technologies like batteries - not just AA batteries, but lithium-ion batteries through to potential future solid-state batteries.

And that is just the beginning - the ecosystem for EVs is still developing globally. Our full-on participation now will allow us to lead the way for not just our nation, but for Asean.

By now I believe readers would know that this new national car excites me, and it should excite all Malaysians, including Rafizi, if we could only think beyond the shell of cynicism that has grown to shield us Malaysians from the bad news of the BN government for most of our last two decades.

We are talking of a new Malaysia based on “harapan”, or hope. Let’s look at the new national car henceforth with that same lens of “harapan”.

AKHRAMSYAH SANUSI is a Bersatu supreme council member.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.


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