Ramli should declare whether
as Speaker he would spearhead parliamentary support for Abdullah’s campaign
against corruption by requiring all MPs, including the Speaker, to publicly
declare their assets and those of their next of kin
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament House, Friday): Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib is offering himself as the new Parliament Speaker but he is not prepared to say a single word about his vision, ideas, commitment and passion for parliamentary reform and modernization to transform the Malaysian Parliament into a First-World Parliament or to give a full and satisfactory accounting with regard to the various allegations of scandals which had been made inside and outside the Perak State Assembly with regard to his 17-year tenure as Perak Mentri Besar.
Ramli said it is premature and not proper for him to express his views about parliamentary reform and modernization so as not to be construed as campaigning for the Speakership.
This is a most shocking, ridiculous and outrageous statement, especially coming from a person who had spent the past three decades of his life in campaigns and elections, whether in UMNO, for the Perak State Assembly or for Parliament!
Such coyness is unbecoming of a seeker of the high elected office such as Parliament Speaker, as it violates all the principles of democratic openness, accountability and transparency.
There are many other issues which MPs and the Malaysian public are entitled to know from a candidate for the Speakership. Ramli should speak up and open up, or he should seriously reconsider whether he should be contesting for the post of the new Parliament Speaker.
For instance, Ramli should declare whether as Speaker he would spearhead parliamentary support for the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s campaign against corruption by requiring all MPs, including the Speaker, to publicly declare their assets and those of their next of kin.
In fact, in view of the failure of Ramli to give a full and satisfactory accounting of the various allegations of scandal pertaining to his 17-year tenure as Perak Mentri Besar, the Prime Minister or the Deputy Prime Minister should inform Parliament on Monday before the voting process begins whether Ramli has been officially and categorically cleared by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) as having a clean record for the office of the Speakership, and when such ACA clearance was given, preferably tabling the ACA certificate of clearance in the House.
It is a sad reflection of the stunted and stifled political climate and opinion in the country that there is very little national awareness or consciousness of the importance of the historic first contested election for Parliament Speaker in 47 years.
The prevailing conventional attitude is that as the Barisan Nasional commands over 91 per cent of the parliamentary seats, it is a foregone conclusion that the government candidate for the Speakship, Ramli Ngah will definitely defeat the Opposition candidate Dr. Tan Seng Giaw for the post when Parliament reconvenes on Monday, and therefore it is a both a waste of time and effort to try to make an issue of the election of Parliament Speaker.
There are four important far-reaching implications of the historic first contested election for Parliament Speaker in 47 years.
Firstly, it is a test whether the government and nation is serious about the national slogan of “Cemerlang, Gemilang, Terbilang”, which must be translated into the best person for the post of Parliament Speaker. There has been a lot of talk about meritocracy in the public service and the educational sector to position the country in a competitive position to face the challenges of globalization, liberalization and information and communication technologies. MPs and the Malaysian people should be informed in what manner Ramli is superior, better and a more qualified candidate than Seng Giaw for the post of Speaker, apart from coming from the Barisan Nasional with over 91 per cent of the parliamentary seats? Has the Barisan Nasional no other better candidate for the post of Parliament Speaker?
Secondly, the future of parliamentary reform and modernization to transform Malaysia into a First-World Parliament. Although the government has given lip-service to support the goal of a First-World Parliament, there had been no programme or agenda of parliamentary reform and modernization in the past six months since the first sitting of Parliament after the March general election.
Although parliamentary reform and modernization cannot depend solely on the Speaker, but must be the product of the parliamentary will and consensus of the 219 MPs, history has shown that a Speaker who is obstructive, hostile or unsympathetic to parliamentary reform and modernization can seriously undermine any efforts to transform the Malaysian Parliament into a First-World Parliament.
Thirdly, the success to restore parliamentary independence and uphold the doctrine of the separation of powers among the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary, to shift back the many powers which rightly belonged to Parliament but which had been eroded by the Executive in the past decades. If MPs do not even have the right and freedom to choose the Speaker in accordance with their conscience and best judgment, but must rubber-stamp the candidate decided by the Cabinet, we are not seeing a redressal of the adverse executive-parliamentary balance of power and relationship but a further diminution of Parliament’s role and place with new and greater concentration of power by the Executive at the expense of Parliament.
We should be finding ways to give MPs greater authority over Ministers to hold Cabinet members to account, especially with the growing evidence of Ministerial incompetence and failure of government delivery system, but from the election of the Speakership, the opposite is taking place – Ministers arrogating to themselves even greater authority over MPs by usurping their rights and privileges in requiring Parliament to rubber stamp the Cabinet choice of the Speaker! Who is holding who to account?
Fourthly, the chances of fulfillment of the many pledges made by Abdullah when he became the fifth Prime Minister last November and during the March general election, viz: a clean, incorruptible, efficient, trustworthy people-oriented government prepared for criticism and to hear the “truth" from the people; and the restoration and the upholding of the doctrine of separation of powers among the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary to maintain the checks and balances needed to prevent abuses of power. If Abdullah cannot deliver his pledge to restore the doctrine of separation of powers as highlighted by the election of the Parliament Speaker, then the chances of his fulfilling his other prime ministerial pledges like a clean, incorruptible, accountable, trustworthy and people-oriented government becomes even more remote and problematic.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman