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Minister should give a full and complete explanation on the question or issues raised when answering questions or issues raised by Members of Parliament in the House of Representatives

Press Statement
Chong Chien Jen

(Parliament, Thursday): Ministers when answering questions or issues raised by Members of Parliament in the House of Representatives should give a full and complete explanation on the question or issues raised.

Today, I moved a motion in the House under Standing Order 26(1)(p) to refer the Minister of Human Resource to the Privilege Committee for concealing part of the truth and facts when the Minister informed the House last night that the Sarawak Labour Ordinance will be implemented and enforced with effect from 1-10-2005 and that he had made the announcement yesterday morning.

The fact is, in the Minister’s announcement earlier yesterday, the Sarawak Labour Ordinance was only enforced partially and not fully. 

Under the Ordinance, all employees in Sarawak receiving a monthly salary equal to or less than RM2,500.00 will enjoy the benefit of the provisions thereunder.  However, in respect of the entitlement to over-time pay, Fong Chan Onn’s announcement excludes those non-manual workers receiving a monthly salary more than RM2,000.00.  In other words, despite the express provisions of the Ordinance, those employees receiving a monthly salary of more than RM2,000.00 in Sarawak will still not be entitled to any over-time pay.  Why is there such distinction made? 

When Members of Parliament debated the issue in December, last year, not a single Member of Parliament raised the point RM2,000.00 or RM2,500.00 threshold monthly salary level.  Moreover, the intention of the Ministry in setting the salary threshold of RM2,500.00 is also clearly stated in the introductory speech of the Minister tabling the Ordinance, ie. to give protection to more employees in Sarawak.  Why the sudden change of mind by the Minister? 

To be fair to the Members of Parliament who have unanimously supported the Ordinance and more importantly, to be fair to the employees of Sarawak, Fong Chan Onn has a lot to explain.  Why did he not disclose the exclusion made by him in the House last night when answering my question?  Is there reason to hide such arbitrary exclusion made by him so as to avoid the scrutiny by the Members of Parliament in the House.

The crux of the matter in hand today is the requirement of Minister to provide full and complete answer in the House of Representatives when answering questions raised by MPs.  There should not be any selective provision of answers, disclosing only answer favourable to the Ministry while concealing the unfavourable part of the information, or what the Minister perceived to be unfavourable.

Only two weeks have passed in this session, but there have been three occasions when the Minister provided incomplete and misleading answers in the House of Representatives.  The first one was the AP lists where only APs issued to MPs were released while tens of thousands of other APs issued were not released.  The second misleading answer was the racial breakdown of equity holdings in top 20 companies in KLSE provided by the finance Ministry.  The misleading answer provided by Fong Chan Onn last night was the third.

We should not allow it to become a culture in the House of Representatives for the administration to conceal information from the House of Representatives. Otherwise, the House will lose its function in scrutinizing the workings of the Administration and we cannot operate effectively as a supervisory body over the policies and implementation of government policies.


* Chong Chien Jen, DAP MP for Bandar Kuching and DAPSY Deputy Chief

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