(Petaling Jaya, Friday): The Pengurusan Danaharta Nasional Berhad Bill should have been referred to a Parliamentary Select Committee for fine-tuning of its provisions before it was passed to make it the best legislation of its kind in the world and be a model for all subsequent legislation by other countries.
This was why after the second reading of the Bill by the Dewan Rakyat yesterday, I immediately stood up under Standing Order 54(2) to move a motion that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee, which would go through the Bill in detail as well as section-by-section before reporting the Bill back to the House with its recommendations on new amendments.
I had made it very clear that the motion to refer the Bill to a Select Committee was not an attempt to delay the passage of the Bill, that I agreed that it was an extraordinary legislation to deal with the worst crisis faced by the economy, and that it must be passed by the current meeting of Dewan Rakyat.
My proposal was a double-win one, where the Bill could be passed by the current meeting of Parliament and yet giving time for the Bill to become a better piece of legislation and even to become the best legislation of its kind in the world and be the model for subsequent legislation by other countries.
This was because I suggested that the Select Committee be given ten days to report its recommendations on the Bill to the Dewan Rakyat so that the Bill could be passed before it adjourns on July 30. Whether the Bill is passed yesterday or on July 30 makes no difference as it could not become law until the Dewan Negara has passed it and the Senate would only be meeting from August 3 to 13.
I do not accept the argument that had been advanced by the Deputy Finance Minister, Datuk Dr. Affifuddin Omar on Wednesday as to why it was important for the Bill to be immediately debated and passed by the Dewan Rakyat.
The reason given by Affifuddin was that the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim would be leaving for a World Bank meeting in Washington and that it would give Anwar a competitive edge in his discussions on the question of selling bonds to raise money for the Asset Management Corporation (AMC). Anwar left yesterday.
I doubt it. Far from giving Anwar a competitive edge, he would only be getting a "handicapped edge", as the bill passing the Dewan Rakyat does not make it into law without the passage by the Senate, which can only be next month.
If the government was serious in wanting to give Anwar the "competitive edge" in his trip to Washington to raise funds for the AMC, then the Opposition should have been consulted and informed of the reason beforehand, and we would have given full co-operation provided adequate time had been given to MPs on the Bill. Furthermore, there should have been an emergency meeting of the Senate so that the AMC Bill can be passed through both Houses of Parliament in time to give Anwar the "competitive edge" in his funds-raising trip to the United States.
It is most unfortunate that my proposal to refer the Pengurusan Danaharta Nasional Berhad Bill to a Select Committee was rejected by the Barisan Nasional MPs, as there is an urgent need to strengthen the provisions in the Bill to allay widespread public fears that although the declared mission of the AMC is to relieve the banking sector of the crippling Non-Performing Loans, the actual working of the AMC would be to be a Government Bail-out agency for troubled companies and individuals with special political connections.
Furthermore, there should be time for the Select Committee to consider how to allay fears of the nine million Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contributors that the RM160 billion Employees Provident Fund and the the monthly increase RM1.2 billion in EPF contributions would be siphoned off to AMC in a massive bail-out operations.
Although Affifuddin had contended that the AMC Bill is a simple piece of legislation and that there are already precedents of such legislation in the United States and Mexico, and there is no need for too much time to study the AMC Bill, it is clear that the government has adopted provisions which could only strengthen the efficiency, accountability, transparency and most important of all, public confidence in the AMC.
This was why I moved five amendments to the AMC Bill during the Committee stage. Although all the five were rejected by the Barisan Nasional MPs, it reflected on their failure to understand what is good for the AMC as well as good for the country or their "blind" support for any government legislation.
My five amendments to the AMC Bill were:.