(Penang, Wednesday): I have received an official communication from Dewan Negara dated 23rd December 1997, despatched to POSLAJU on 26th December 1997, which reached my house in Penang on Monday on the Dewan Negara motion on Dec. 22 demanding an unconditional apology and retraction of my reference to the Senate as a "rubbish-bin for political has-beens, rejects and deadwoods" and that the reference be expunged from the Hansard of the Dewan Rakyat.
The letter, signed by the Secretary of Dewan Negara, Abdullah bin Abdul Wahab, under the heading "Usul Meminta Yang Berhormat Tuan Lim Kit Siang Memohon Maaf Tanpa Syarat Kepada Dewan Negara Dan Ahli-ahlinya Dan Kepada Institusi-Institusi Yang Terlibat Di Dalam Pemilihan Dan Perlantikan Mereka Oleh Tuan Hamzah bin Mohd. Zain" informed me that the Senate had passed the motion introduced by Senator Hamzah bin Mohd Zain, and reproduced the motion in full, namely:
"Saya bangun dibawah Peraturan Mesyuarat 17(2) membawa satu usul diatas nama Hamzah bin Mohd Zain berkenaan satu perkara tertentu, mempunyai kepentingan orang ramai dan perlu disegerakan.
"Pada 17hb Disember 1997, lebih kurang diantara pukul 4.00 dan 4.30 petang, Ketua Pembangkang YB Tuan Lim Kit Siang didalam ucapannya di Dewan Rakyat, antara lain, telah mengucapkan kata-kata, saya ungkap: "Senate sekarang ini rubbish bin for the had has (sic) been political deadwoods". Pengucapan itu adalah perkara tertentu yang disengajakan, berniat buruk menghina dan meruntuhkan.
"Kata-kata itu adalah menjadi kepentingan orang ramai apabila Lim Kit Siang telah menggunakan Dewan Rakyat, salah satu dari dua Dewan Parlimen, Instituti Tertinggi dalam proses perundangan negara, dengan tujuan untuk menghakis keyakinan orang ramai dan rakyat negara ini keatas keutuhan dan kewibawaan Dewan Negara dan seterusnya keatas Institusi Perundangan, Pentadbiran and Perlembagaan Negara. Ucapan itu juga mempersoalkan institusi yang terlibat dalam proses pemilihan dan perlantikan ahli-ahli Dewan Negara iaitu Dewan-dewan Undangan Negeri dan DYMM Seri Paduka Baginda Yang DiPertuan Agong diatas nasihat Perdana Menteri.
"Perbincangan keatas perkara ini perlu disegerakan kerana, usaha penghinaan dan cubaan menghakis keyakinan umum dan rakyat negara ini ke atas institusi-institusi tertinggi negara, dilakukan pada ketika kita sedang memerlukan seluruh lapisan masyarakat bersatu padu menggembeling tenaga dalam menghadapi dan menangani krisis ekonomi dan kewangan yang sedang melanda. Perbuatan Ketua Pembangkang itu langsung tidak membantu, malahan satu cubaan meruntuh landas kekuatan negara. Keadaan perlu diperbetulkan segera sebelum digunakan oleh musuh bagi melemahkan kita dalam menghadapi kegawatan hari ini.
"Oleh yang demikian, Tuan Yang diPertua, saya mengusulkan supaya Dewan ini ditangguhkan bagi membincangkan usul supaya YB Lim Kit Siang memohon maaf tanpa syarat kepada Dewan Negara dan ahli-ahlinya dan kepada institusi-institusi yang terlibat didalam pemilihan dan perlantikan mereka. Lim Kit Siang juga hendaklah menarik balik kata-katanya yang berkenaan dan dihapuskan sama sekali dari rekod Dewan Rakyat. Usul ini juga menyeru seluruh lapisan masyarakat bersatu padu dengan penuh harmoni dan hormat menghormati dalam usaha memulih, menstabil dan membangun ekonomi negara. "
I am calling this media conference to formally reject the Dewan Negara’s motion demanding an unconditional apology and retraction of my reference to the Senate as a "rubbish-bin for political has-beens, rejects and deadwoods" and that the reference be expunged from the Hansard of the Dewan Rakyat.
It is the senators who should apologise to the nation and people for being a burdensome national irrelevance who could waste more than an hour debating about me instead of focussing on the people’s problems at a time of unprecedented economic and financial crisis.
Having forthrightly, unconditionally and unequivocally rejected the Dewan Negara motion demanding an unconditional apology and retraction of my reference to the Senate, it is up to the Senators to take the next step as they deem fit. I have in fact accepted the challenge by a Senator during the debate in the Dewan Negara on Dec. 22 and I had repeated outside Parliament without benefit of parliamentary privilege what I had said about the Dewan Negara, and my lawyer, Karpal Singh, MP for Jelutong, is still waiting to accept service on my behalf of defamation suits by Senators.
I have also accepted the challenge by another Senator to a public debate on my reference to the Senate as a "rubbish-bin for political has-beens, rejects and deadwoods", but both Senators who issued the challenges seem to have gone into hiding.
It is very pathetic that the Senators do not have the courage to go through with the challenges which they had the temerity to issue in the confines of the Dewan Negara chamber but which could not withstand public test and scrutiny.
When I learnt on Dec. 22 that the Dewan Negara had a motion of urgent definite public importance to censure me, I had phoned up a few newspapers to inquire as to what transpired in the Dewan Negara. I was surprised , though not shocked, that a few of the newspapers knew nothing about the Dewan Negara motion for they had not bothered to send any reporters to cover the Senate, as it was the last day of Dewan Negara and the Senate was nothing more than a "rubber stamp"!
I must say that I do not agree that the Dewan Negara is a "rubber-stamp" which should be reserved for the Dewan Rakyat for being a rubber-stamp of the Executive, while the Dewan Negara is only a "rubber-stamp to a rubber-stamp"!
The irrelevance of the Dewan Negara can also be seen by the way the Parliament administration treated the Senate in the Parliamentary homepage on the Internet, as the Parliament website (http://www.parlimen.gov.my) tried to put online the Hansard of 27 out of 42 sittings of the Dewan Rakyat from Oct. 6 to Nov. 20, but there had not been a single Hansard online for the Dewan Negara in its 13-day meeting from Dec. 1 - 22.
The Senators should conduct a painful soul-searching as to what they are doing to stop being a burdensome national baggage, wasting over RM10 million of taxpayers’ money every year at this period when the country is going through an economic crisis, and whether it is not time they make themselves more relevant and useful to the nation and society.
I have no doubt as to the outcome of any national opinion poll as to whether the Senate as presently constituted and functioning is an unnecessary burden on the economy and should be scrapped unless it is reformed.
On July 15, 1985, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Parliament, I moved a motion in the Dewan Rakyat urging a deep and thorough examination of the operation of Parliament and to find ways to restore to Parliament its pre-eminent place in the Malaysian political system.
During that debate, I had called for a national review as to whether the Senate "is just a sham, totally irrelevant and a White Elephant which had failed its constitutional purpose as a revision chamber to review the legislation enacted by Dewan Rakyat" and excoriated the Senate for degenerating into a "dumping ground for political ‘rejects’ or defeated candidates of Barisan Nasional component parties".
In my speech, I called for an elected Senate "or the abolition of the Senate so that institutions which serve no national purpose do not continue to be a drain on the nation’s funds".
There should be a national debate whether the Senate should be scrapped altogether as it has failed to serve its constitutional purpose 40 years after Merdeka, or whether it should be reformed through make the Senate an elective chamber, which will purge the Dewan Negara of "political has-beens, rejects and deadwoods".