Parliamentary Committee of Privileges must conduct its investigations in a
fair and just manner, observing the rules of natural justice and the maxim
that “Justice must not only be done but seen to be done” , so that it would
not be equated with a kangaroo court as in some unfortunate previous
instances in the past
Media Conference Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament House, Wednesday): The Parliament Secretary Datuk Abdullah Abdul Wahab was reported in the New Straits Times today as saying that the DAP MP for Bukit Glugor, Karpal Singh need not have to be present and appear before the Committee of Privileges and that “he could argue for his defence via submission of documents”.
The Parliamentary Committee of Privileges must conduct its investigations in a fair and just manner, observing the rules of natural justice and the maxim that “Justice must not only be done but seen to be done” , so that it would not be equated with a kangaroo court as in some unfortunate previous instances in the past.
It will be going against all parliamentary precedents both in Malaysia and the Commonwealth if Karpal, as the subject of the Committee of Privileges investigations, is denied the opportunity and the right to appear before it to defend himself.
The last time that Parliament referred MPs to the Committee of Privileges to investigate into breach of privilege was on 23rd November 1983, when both the then DAP MP for Sandakan, Fung Ket Wing and the Sabah Chief Minister, Harris Salleh (who was also MP for Ulu Padas) were jointly referred to determine as to which one of the two had made a false statement with regard to the extent of the latter’s land ownership in Labuan.
Fung not only appeared before the Committee of Privilegtes to defend himself, he was also represented by Counsel, K.C. Cheah.
With such a precedent, there can be no reason why Karpal cannot appear before the Committee of Privileges to defend himself, and also to be represented by Counsel.
It was reported that the proceedings of the Committee of Privileges would be held behind closed door, with the outcome to be made public when the House resumes meeting on July 5.
The Committee of Privileges must first meet to decide on the modus operandi of its investigations into the case of Karpal which had been referred to it by Parliament at its last sitting on Monday.
I call on the Committee of Privileges to be fully mindful of the wind of change and reform blowing through Commonwealth Parliaments in the past few decades but which had completely bypassed the Malaysian Parliament, and the new ethos of openness, accountability and transparency which have been embraced by progressive Parliaments worldwide as testified by the proceedings of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), with Malaysia as a member of both.
As a first step, the Committee of Privileges should stop holding its proceedings in closed-door but conduct them in public – especially as the verbatim record of its entire proceedings have to be tabled in Parliament when it submits its report.
I wish to take this opportunity to call on the Parliamentary Accounts Committee to also spearhead an era of greater openness, accountability and transparency by holding all its proceedings in public, and I hope it would have started its work by before the next parliamentary meeting on July 5.
Parliament at its recently-concluded meeting had constituted the three Standing Committees, i.e. the Privileges Committee, the House Committee and the Standing Orders Committee.
It was the past unhealthy practice for these Standing Committees to go into long sleep for five years after its constitution, without at times holding a single meeting. This should not happen again.
The House and Standing Orders Committee should meet before the next parliamentary meeting on July 5 so that they can give a report to Parliament next month on its agenda of business – how the House Committee is going to upgrade the facilities available to MPs to make them effective elected representatives of the people and how the Standing Orders Committee is going to initiate a process of parliamentary reform and modernization to make the Malaysian Parliament a First World Reform Parliament.
If members of the the House and Standing Orders Committee are not prepared to work hard to catch up on the decades of neglect in these two fields, then new members should be appointed to carry out these tasks.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader,
Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman