Election  of Dr. Tan Seng Giaw as Parliament Speaker clear message that Malaysia firmly on the road to restore separation of powers and first step to First-World Parliament

Media Conference Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): New Sunday Times carried the headline “DAP bid for Speaker’s post a political stunt” for its article in the leader page today on the first contested election for Speaker tomorrow in the 45-year history of Parliament. 

The nomination of six-term DAP MP for Kepong,  Dr. Tan Seng Giaw as Parliament Speaker is no “political gimmick” but a very serious proposition to wake up Parliament and civil society on the need to focus on the best candidate for a First-World Malaysian Parliament Speaker and the  urgent need for an ambitious programme of parliamentary reform and modernization if Malaysia is to join the ranks of the fully-developed nations under Vision 2020. 

The question tomorrow is whether there are Barisan Nasional MPs, who though personally and privately disagree with the choice of Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib as the Parliament Speaker, is prepared to vote according to dictates of one’s conscience and best judgment or whether he or she  must comply with the Barisan Nasional Whip and be rubber stamp of the Executive. 

Even Barisan Nasional MPs believe that there are better choices from the government ranks, whether inside or outside Parliament, for the important post of Speaker if we want to transform the Malaysian Parliament into a First-World Parliament and restore the role and place of Parliament as the highest deliberative and legislative chamber in the land in accordance with the doctrine of separation of powers. 

I believe the majority of Barisan Nasional MPs personally and privately agree that it is most reasonable to ask Ramli to do two things before the vote for the Speakership tomorrow, viz:

  • To give a full accounting of the various allegations of scandals during his tenure as Perak Mentri Besar (as it would be most embarrassing if these scandals are raised when he is Speaker of Parliament), whether it be the Kampung Meru Tin-Jelapang Scandal,  the RM40 million Pasir Salak Historical Complex or others; and
  • to spell out his  vision, ideas, commitment and passion for parliamentary reform and modernization to transform the Malaysian Parliament into a First-World Parliament. 

I do not believe that the majority of Barisan Nasional MPs agree with Ramli’s contention that both these issues are irrelevant to the election of Parliament Speaker. 

As the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is making national integrity and the war against corruption the centerpiece of his premiership, a clean and incorruptible leadership must stand out in all the three branches of government, i.e. the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. 

I therefore find it shocking that the candidate for the Speaker, the highest office in Parliament, could say that the question of integrity and incorruptibility of the candidate for Speaker  is irrelevant. 

If we are serious about creating a new culture of political integrity with zero  tolerance for corruption, we should consider extending the concept of Corruption Perception Index (CPI) to individual leaders from its present application to nations by Transparency International and other organizations tracking corruption indices. 

What, for instance, would be the CPI of Ramli if this question is posed to the people of Perak, taking  his 17-year tenure as  Perak Mentri Besar  into consideration. 

I do not see how Ramli could argue that this is a question which is completely irrelevant to the election of Parliament Speaker, which only reflects his lack of understanding of the National Integrity Plan officially launched by Abdullah in April this year to affect all organizations and aspects of national life. 

I have proposed a 48-hour postponement of the election of Parliament Speaker scheduled for tomorrow to allow MPs to find out from both Ramli and Seng Giaw their vision, ideas, commitment and passion for parliamentary reform and modernization to restore Parliament’s role as the highest deliberative and legislative chamber of the land so that they could exercise their vote in an informed and intelligent manner. 

If the election of the Speaker is to proceed nonetheless, I call on the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak to let Barisan Nasional MPs to have the freedom and right to vote according to their conscience and best judgment without having to be bound by the Barisan Nasional whip, as publicly stated by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz. 

Imagine the message that Parliament will be sending out to the nation and the world if Seng Giaw is elected as Speaker tomorrow despite the Barisan Nasional’s control of over 91 per cent of the parliamentary seats – that Malaysia is firmly on the road to restore and uphold the doctrine of the separation of powers and  parliamentary democracy by taking the first step towards  a First-World Parliament. 


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