Malaysian trade minister: car import policy abused

The government has ordered Malaysia's trade minister to immediately appear in Parliament to answer accusations that the country's long-standing car-import policy was misused to benefit a few well-connected businesses.

International Trade and Industry Minister Rafidah Aziz must answer the allegations "as soon as she returns from overseas," Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said late Wednesday.

"We expect Rafidah's reply not long from now," he said. She is expected to return on Friday to Malaysia from Vientiane, Laos, where she is attending a meeting of Southeast Asian economic ministers.

Najib said the directive ,the first time such an order has been given to a minister , was issued at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Parliament will be in session until Dec. 8.

In an interview with the national news agency Bernama on Wednesday, Rafidah indicated she intended to abide by the directive. She has denied any wrongdoing.

Government and opposition lawmakers have criticized Rafidah over the past week for not appearing in Parliament and sought explanation for why her ministry issued thousands of highly sought car import licenses, known as "approved permits" or APs, to a few select businessmen, informs the AP. I.L.

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