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Five burning issues on corruption,  police, water, CSMU degrees and parliamentary reform awaiting long-overdue decision by Cabinet tomorrow

Media Conference Statement
at the 65th birthday celebration of DAP National Chairman and MP for Bukit Glugor Karpal Singh in Parliament
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Parliament, Tuesday): Yesterday we welcome Karpal back to Parliament and today we wish him “Happy Birthday” on his turning 65 years young. 

Although Karpal has not fully recovered from his unfortunate accident outside his Penang home on January 29, and is still wheelchair-bound, he had to be restrained under doctor’s orders from coming to Parliament in the past three months since the end of his six-month suspension – so strong was his political will and zeal to want to immediately return to his parliamentary duties to take part in debates in Parliament to serve the people and nation. 

Although Karpal is today 65, he has still many more years to serve in Parliament.  If we compare Karpal with the  former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Karpal has another 14 years to go, as Dr. Mahathir was 79 when he stepped down from Parliament last year. 

The best way to mark Karpal’s return to Parliament and his 65th birthday is to focus on the burning  issues of the day. 

The Cabinet tomorrow must decide on five important  and burning issues which cannot be deferred any further, concerning corruption, police, water, the Crimea State Medical University (CSMU) medical degrees and parliamentary reform. 

1. Corruption 

The Prime Minister and UMNO President, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said yesterday that UMNO’s credibility is still intact despite the action  taken by the Umno Disciplinary Board against UMNO Vice President and Federal Territories Minister, Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad, suspending his UMNO membership for six years for money politics and  breach of the party's code of ethics. 

Abdullah said: “Umno is taking action to contain money politics and the party is working to eradicate it.” 

I fully agree that the six-year suspension of Isa from UMNO will not affect UMNO’s   credibility.  

In fact, such disciplinary action against any top party leader for money politics and vote-buying can only enhance both UMNO and the Prime Minister’s image, provided that it is  not   an “one-off” action, not  selective or discriminatory but consistent and applicable to all in the party, regardless of station or faction, with no attempt to evade the corruption laws of the land.

Malaysians are waiting with bated breath to find out  whether the action against Isa is an isolated,  selective and  “one-off” action against one UMNO Minister and political warlord or whether it marks the beginning of a serious “clean-up” campaign against money politics and vote-buying in UMNO in particular and corruption in the country in general.

Abdullah has said that Isa should resign from all his UMNO party posts but he could remain in the Cabinet pending his appeal over his six-year suspension from the party.

I do not agree with Abdullah, as the veteran UMNO leader Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah is more right in calling on Isa to step down from the Cabinet for  credibility and moral reasons, as the people will no longer have faith in him.

The greatest casualty of the whole episode however is the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA).  Although the ACA director-general Datuk Seri Zulkipli Mat Noor said yesterday that the agency has the jurisdiction to investigate cases involving political corruption without a complaint being lodged, the question is why the ACA had done absolutely nothing about the political corruption in the UMNO party elections last September, when it had been described by UMNO leaders like the  Information Minister Datuk Paduka Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir,  as “the worst case of money politics” in six decades of UMNO history.

Zulkipli and the ACA were also unmoved and inert  when former Deputy Prime Minister and UMNO Deputy President, Tun Ghafar Baba, went public and lamented   that money politics in UMNO elections for a Supreme Council position was  not merely  RM1,000 or RM2,000, RM1 million or RM2 million, but from RM10 million to RM50 million!  (Sin Chew 19.6.05). 

The Cabinet tomorrow should give Abdullah full and unanimous support  for an all-out war against corruption, including launching a zero-tolerance for corruption nation-wide campaign, public declaration of assets by Ministers and their next of kin   and the establishment of a Parliamentary Select Committee on National Integrity to oversee and monitor the anti-corruption campaign and the performance of ACA.   Any Cabinet Minister  who is not prepared to give h full and unanimous support for an all-out war against corruption should relinquish his or her  Cabinet position. 

2. Police 

Parliament spent five days, with one Barisan Nasional backbencher speaking for seven hours, on a comparatively minor two-paragraph amendment bill, the Private Employment Agencies (Amendment) Bill 2005.

If the government can allow five days to be wasted on a comparatively minor amendment bill, but is not prepared to allow a three-day debate on the Police Royal Commission Report and a two-day debate on the 2004 Human Rights Commission Report, something is very wrong about the Abdullah premiership and Cabinet.

Parliament had never debated annual  Suhakam Reports although Suhakam is required by law to be accountable to Parliament by specifically submitting its reports to Parliament. In doing so, Parliament has done itself, Suhakam and human rights a grave disservice and such undesirable  past practice of simply ignoring Suhakam reports should not be continued by Parliament.  

The Cabinet tomorrow should extend the current parliamentary meeting to accommodate these two debates. 

3. Water 

The Minister for Energy, Water and Communications, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik’s latest promise and deadline for Cabinet approval for the two water service industry bills is tomorrow.  With his new pose as the latest  convert to the Water NGO cause of “no privatization, no federalization and full consultation”, he should seek Cabinet approval for establishment of a Parliamentary Select Committee on the two water bills which should be given a six-month period to complete a report on the proposed legislation so that the two water bills could be debated for second and third readings latest in a special parliamentary sitting in January next year. 

Furthermore, Keng Yaik should keep his promise to declassify and make public the two water bills to MPs and the Malaysian public immediately after tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting. 

4. CSMU medical degrees derecognition 

The issue of the Malaysian Medical Council’s sudden and high-handed derecognition of the Crimea State Medical University (CSMU) medical degrees was not raised at last week’s Cabinet meeting as earlier promise by MIC President and Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu on the ground that the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Soi Lek was overseas in Japan. 

The Cabinet should take serious note of the  Parliamentary Roundtable (4) deliberations  on the CSMU medical degrees derecognition controversy on Sunday involving MPs, NGOs and NGIs (non-government individuals), particularly in its call for

  • suspension of the MMC derecognition of the CSMU medical degrees to give a grace period for CSMU to comply with the MMC requirements; and
  • a Ministerial statement in Parliament to give a full and satisfactory account of the background, history, process  and reasons for the MMC’s  derecognition of the CSMU medical degrees, making public  the report and recommendations of the various technical committees which had visited CSMU in the past few years.

5. Parliamentary reform 

The Cabinet should recommit itself to the goal of transforming the Malaysian Parliament into a First World Parliament as part of the Prime Minister’s “First World Infrastructure, First World Mentality” aspirations for Malaysia so that the earlier enthusiasm shown by the government for parliamentary reform does not run out of steam. 

Parliamentary reform had got stuck in the past 20 months with the archaic Standing Orders, parliamentary procedures and  practices still fully intact. 

The Parliamentary Standing Orders Committee had a recent meeting to propose modernization of the standing orders, but there are no signs that its first batch of proposals for reform of parliamentary standing orders, practices and procedures would see the light of day in the current meeting of Parliament in time for debate and adoption. 

The Cabinet tomorrow should agree to the establishment of a Parliamentary Select Committee on  Parliamentary Reform and Modernisation, which would encompass not only the  review of standing orders by the Standing Orders Committee  but all other aspects of parliamentary modernization and reform to make the Malaysian Parliament a First-World Parliament.



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

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