International public appeal
to Abdullah to honour his pledge to uphold the separation of powers, defend
parliamentary independence and protect Parliament from Executive abuses
and interference by withdrawing the party whip to allow Barisan Nasional
MPs to freely choose to vote between Ramli and Seng Giaw as the new
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): When Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi became Prime Minister just more than a year ago, he chose to make his maiden official speech in Parliament to spell out his vision and the objectives of his government.
Abdullah promised a clean, incorruptible, efficient, people-oriented government prepared for criticism and to hear the “truth" from the people. Equally important, he promised to uphold the doctrine of separation of powers among the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary, as it was important to maintain the checks and balances needed to prevent abuses of power.
The election of the Speaker of Parliament on Monday for the first time in the 45-year history of the Malaysian Parliament is an acid test whether Abdullah will honour the pledge he made in his maiden official speech in Parliament on November 3 last year to uphold the important principle of separation of powers, defend the independence and dignity of Parliament and protect Parliament from Executive abuses and interference.
If MPs cannot freely vote as to who should be the Parliament Speaker in accordance with their conscience and best judgment, without being bound by the party Whip and directive, it will be a double tragedy, as it will be the latest example of the Executive undermining of Parliamentary independence and the subversion of the doctrine of separation of powers.
It is no business of the Cabinet to decide who should be the Speaker of Parliament, as this must be rightly and freely decided by the 219 Members of Parliament, of whom the Cabinet Ministers are just a part.
Those who cherish the fundamental constitutional principle of the separation of powers among the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary find it most offensive, intolerable and a dangerous precedent for the Cabinet to pre-empt the powers and privileges of the 219 Members of Parliament to decide who should be the Speaker of Parliament.
This is why Abdullah should allow all Barisan Nasional MPs to freely choose to vote between Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib and Dr. Tan Seng Giaw as the new Parliament Speaker on Monday, according to the conscience and best judgment of each MP.
Although Abdullah left yesterday for Chile to attend the 12th Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit, I am making an international public appeal to him to honour his pledge to uphold the separation of powers and protect Parliament from Executive abuses and interference by withdrawing the Whip to allow all BN MPs to freely choose to vote between Ramli and Seng Giaw as the new Parliament Speaker.
In this era of instant communications, when information travels at the speed of light, Abdullah should be able to learn of this international public appeal fairly instantly regardless of where he is on the globe. I urge him to agree to allow the 219 MPs – over 91 per cent of whom are Barisan Nasional MPs – the freedom to vote either Ramli or Seng Giaw as the Speaker of Parliament based on the best person for the post, without laying down any party directive or line.
I am surprised that Ramli has declined to date to discuss or share his views about parliamentary reform and modernization or the important subject of how to transform the Malaysian Parliament into a first-world Parliament.
If Ramli is prepared to allow his name to go forward as a candidate for Parliament Speaker, he owes to MPs and the Malaysian people an obligation to spell out what he sees as the greatest challenges of a Parliament Speaker at this critical juncture of the nation’s development, when the Prime Minister has pledged to create a “First World Infrastructure, First-World Mentality” culture and environment.
How are the 219 MPs to exercise their right to vote for the new Parliament Speaker in an informed and intelligent manner if they are completely in the dark about Ramli’s vision, commitment and passion for parliamentary reform and modernization, as only Seng Giaw has spelt out his views about the Speaker’s challenges and responsibilities? Or are such information, discussion and debate utterly irrelevant, as the Barisan Nasional MPs who command over 91 per cent of the parliamentary seats, have no choice but to vote blindly and unthinkingly for the government candidate?
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman