Parliamentary Opposition seriously considering proposing a candidate for new Speaker of Parliament for two reasons - no consultation from the Prime Minister and virtually no progress in parliamentary reform and modernization in past seven months

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Parliament House, Friday): The parliamentary opposition is seriously considering proposing a candidate for the post of new Speaker of Parliament for two reasons: firstly, there had been no consultation from the Prime Minister on the appointment of the new Speaker  although I had written to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi asking for a meeting  to discuss the issue more than a week ago; and secondly, the virtual lack of progress or movement in the past seven months towards parliamentary reform and modernization to make the Malaysian Parliament a first-world Parliament. 

Various names have been the subject of media speculation for the appointment of Speaker, including UMNO Information chief and former Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib, the Public Accounts Committee Chairman Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Rais Yatim and  Dewan Negara president Tan Sri Dr. Abdul Hamid Pawanteh.


Muhammad Taib’s appointment as Parliament Speaker is completely unacceptable as it  will be a cynical abuse of the nine-tenth parliamentary majority of the Barisan Nasional. 


This is because  there is no way Malaysians and the world can be convinced that a person who is not deemed qualified to be a parliamentary or state assembly candidate in the past two general elections because of his A$1.2 million escapade in Brisbane in 1996 should now be considered suitable and qualified to be Parliament Speaker.  Furthermore, Muhammad Taib’s appointment as Speaker of Parliament will make a total mockery of Abdullah’s pledge of an all-out war against corruption and full-throttled campaign to introduce a new culture of political integrity with zero tolerance for corruption, where political leaders must not only be clean and honest, but be seen to be  clean and honest!


Is the new Parliament Speaker prepared to set an example of a new ethos of political integrity by publicly declaring all his assets and income and those of his next-of-kin? 


With unprecedented nine-tenth parliamentary majority, the Barisan Nasional government has more than  enough numbers to elect whom it wants as the Speaker. The question is whether the government is prepared to consult with the Opposition in accordance with international  best practices of parliamentary tradition and convention to arrive at an all-party consensus to make the nominee for the post of the new Speaker not just a Barisan Nasional candidate but the candidate of  all political parties represented in Parliament, both ruling coalition and opposition!


From press reports and the political grape-vine, it would appear that Ramli Ngah is the most likely Barisan Nasional nominee for the post of the new Speaker. 


Is Ramli Ngah the best candidate for the post of Parliament Speaker?  What are the attributes of a Speaker of the Malaysian Parliament in an era when the country is trying to shake off the Malaysian malaise of “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality”?


Ramli Ngah has been the Chairrman of the Public Accounts Committee for the past seven months, but he has failed to make a distinct mark in this important post to hold the government to close account and scrutiny, especially at a time when there had been so many scandals involving government projects, causing enormous inconveniences and hardships to the public apart from raising grave questions of public financial accountability and integrity, whether the closure of the  MRR2 Kepong flyover, the highway landslides such as the North-South Expressway near Gua Tempurung and the East Coast Highway, and now the night closure of the Pulai-Lojing stretch of the East-West Highway; the closure of the new RM550 million Hospital Sultan Ismail in Johore, the seven-year delay in the completion of the MATRADE Building whose costs have jumped from R167 million to over RM400 million  with no end in sight and the latest revelations, the serious structural defects in 16 schools and five community colleges nationwide.


Education Minister Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein  has come out with a fierce statement that he would not protect anyone guilty of jeopardizing the future of the nation’s youth and that he would ensure that all his officers co-operate fully with the Anti-Corruption Agency to bring to justice those involved in any form of misappropriation in these school and community college projects.


It is not just MPs, but Malaysians as a whole, who  are very tired  of these meaningless statements, for similar sentiments were expressed last year by both the then Prime Minister and Education Minister over the RM140 million East Coast school computer laboratory scandal where construction was not only behind schedule by two years, but 574 of the 600 computer laboratories built were  not safe and in danger of collapse!  All the “thunder and lightning” warnings that irresponsible contractors would be brought to book has finally degenerated into nothing, and some of these computer labs are still not ready although the “final date” of their completion was end of last year!


The Public Accounts Committee Chairman would have made a mark if, for instance, the PAC had hauled up the Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu as well as all other relevant Cabinet Ministers to pinpoint the causes of the failures of so many government development projects – including Hishammuddin to explain why after being Education Minister for more than seven months, he only came to know about the serious defects in 16 schools and five community colleges after they were reported in the mass media?


If Ramli is the hot favourite for the post of Speaker of Parliament, a relevant question that must be asked is whether he could make a good Speaker to transform the Malaysian Parliament into a first-world Parliament, relevant to the aspirations not only of MPs but the 25 million Malaysians, if he cannot make a mark as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee for the past seven months?


This is particularly pertinent as in the past seven months, the various Parliament Standing Committees, whether House or Standing Orders Committees, had gone into hibernation, blissfully unaware of the urgency of their role to make the Malaysian Parliament as first-world Parliament.  The Privileges Committee had been hyper-active, but only to bring disrepute and disgrace to the Malaysian Parliament and the nation, in abusing all parliamentary conventions by arbitrarily suspending DAP National Chairman and MP for Bukit Glugor Karpal Singh from Parliament without pay for six months.


The nominee for the new Parliament Speaker should share not only with MPs but with the Malaysian public his vision, commitment and passion  to make the Malaysian Parliament a first-world Parliament through far-reaching parliamentary reforms and modernization.   A person who has no ideas about making the Malaysian Parliament a “first-world Parliament” is clearly not suitable to be appointed as the Speaker of Parliament when the Dewan Rakyat reconvenes on Nov. 22.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman