DRB HICOM, a government-linked company, paid more than RM300 million to two individuals (AP Kings) in order to get Approved Permits (APs) to import cars.
"That is wrong," says former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.
He did not named the two individuals but it is understood that he was referring to the two AP Kings closely associated with Rafidah Aziz, Minister of International Trade and Industry (MITI). The two are Syed Azman Syed Ibrahim, a former army major, and his business partner and former MITI officer, Haniff Abdul Aziz.
"I knew something was going wrong, and nobody was willing to say anything," Mahathir said at a talk with 100 Malay professionals, a recording of which was made available on DVD by the Institute of Economic and Political Studies (Ikape), the organiser of the talk held last December. Ikape is headed by former New Straits Times (NST) editor-in-chief Abdullah Ahmad or Dollah Kok Lanas (DKL).
Mahathir said everybody was silent and willing to allow something that was wrong to go on and on. So, he said, he had to come out with a public statement despite his resolution not to comment about the government.
"This is a kind of abuse of power and doing something that is against national interest. I cannot accept that a minister should give to somebody he or she knows so much wealth, and I'm learning a little bit more everyday, for example, I knew that DRB HICOM (in order) to get APs to import cars, they have to pay more than RM300 million to two people up front," Mahathir said.
He said if DRB HICOM is not a bumiputera company and therefore, is not entitled to APs then it should not get an AP at all.
"But to say that it it not a bumiputera but it is alright for DRB HICOM to get the AP if it goes through these very important people - they have to pay money up front. That, to me, is wrong. I wouldn't say it is corruption or whatever, because that is very difficult.
"What disappoints me is that in Umno itself, there is no willingness to criticise something that is obviously wrong. And if I may say so, because this is the leader of the Wanita (Rafidah Aziz), Wanita has got no opinion whatsoever, never said one word against the boss," he added.
Mahathir said during his time, people criticised him. Umno people criticised him and they even stood against him, to topple him, but nowdays, "when you see something obviously wrong, and you refuse to stick your neck out to be chopped, I think you have ceased to become a real political force. So you have to take risks."
Mahathir said he has taken risks before. He was referring to the time when everybody refused to say anything against the first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, Mahathir stuck his neck out and he was chopped. He was thrown out of Umno.
"So if you want things to be right, you have to take the risk. But what I see now is a desire to avoid risks at all cost even if the country goes to the dogs, that's alright as long as I'm safe. That's something that I regret. I thought that some people would support me when I talked about the AP issue."