Urgent letter to Abdullah to adopt international best practices and universally-accepted parliamentary convention of  appointing  the Opposition to head  the Public Accounts Committee 

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Parliament House, Monday): I have this morning sent a letter to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi across the floor of the House asking him to urgently reconsider the decision of not appointing an Opposition MP as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. 

Yesterday, when speaking at the DAP National Consultation “Agenda for First World Parliament”,  the Minister in  the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz announced that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)  would not have an Opposition MP as Chairman. 

In my letter to the Prime Minister, I stressed that  “at stake is not just whether the 11th Parliament is prepared to comply with international best  practices and universally-accepted parliamentary conventions of having an Opposition to head the Public Accounts Committee, but even more fundamental and far-reaching – the credibility of the National Integrity Plan which YAB   launched last month and your repeated exhortations for mindset change and a culture for excellence and high performance; as well as the government’s commitment to have a First World Parliament in line with YAB’s pledge to eradicate the Malaysian malaise of ‘First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality’.” 

I said that the reason given by Nazri why the PAC cannot have an Opposition MP as Chairman was  most shocking and reflected most adversely on the administration’s  pledge for a clean, incorruptible, trustworthy and people-oriented government. Nazri had implied  that the Opposition cannot be trusted with such a position which would entitle it to go to any Ministry to demand answers and accountability from its KSU (Ketua Setiausaha) as the Opposition did not have experience in government and therefore  have no “sensitivity” of certain important matters in government.

I said: 

“This is a misreading of the powers and responsibilities of the PAC and its chairman, who definitely has no powers to go into any   Ministry to demand the KSU to open any file, let alone documents and records concerning national security.

“The powers and responsibilities  of the Public Accounts Committee are clearly set out in Dewan Rakyat  Standing Order 77, viz. to examine the accounts of the Federal Government and public authorities whose budgets are approved by Parliament and to consider the reports of the Auditor-General concerning the economy, efficiency, effectiveness of government financial management.


“What is most disturbing about such a ground for rejecting the international best practice and universally-accepted parliamentary convention of having an Opposition to head the PAC  is the animus towards independent, thorough and no-holds-barred investigation against financial abuses and improprieties in the expenditure of public funds –reflecting an attitude explaining  why the Anti-Corruption Agency for instance lacks public confidence in its independence, professionalism and integrity to act against the corrupt without fear or favour.

“As the  refusal to appoint an Opposition MP to head the PAC will seriously undermine YAB’s repeated welcome of public scrutiny of the government on the ground that there is  nothing to hide, I urge  YAB to urgently reconsider the decision and to agree to the appointment of an Opposition to head PAC.”

In my letter to Abdullah, I commended Nazri’s preparedness to speak at the DAP National Consultation “Agenda for a First World Parliament”, hoping that it would “herald a more consultative, collaborative and co-operative chapter of parliamentary relations, not only among MPs from both sides of the House but also between MPs  and the public”. 

I said:

“Parliament is the forum for the scrutiny of the government, but the public must also have the facilities to exercise scrutiny on Parliament.

“DAP and the Opposition propose to invite Ministers to more  public parliamentary consultations and it is hoped that all Ministers would be as ready as Nazri to take part in such discussions – just as Opposition MPs should be as ready to accept similar invitations from the  Barisan Nasional.”

I also suggested that the more consultative, collaborative and co-operative approach among MPs  should be both at formal and informal parliamentary levels, and asked the Prime Minister to  allow Barisan Nasional MPs to join with Opposition MPs to form an informal parliamentary caucus on democracy in Burma in view of the farce of a National Constitutional Convention in Yangon today. 

It is hoped that the informal parliamentary caucus on democracy on Burma could also mark a new era of greater maturity of  the Malaysian Parliament and democracy, where MPs can  form caucuses or committees on issues which they feel strongly about, without having to bind either their political party or the government.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman & Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor