There is nothing in law and constitution against the dissolution of Parliament in mid-session. However, it is scandalous and outrageous for the present Parliament to be dissolved in mid-session when there is no constitutional or political crisis, as Mahathir has a rock-like five-sixth parliamentary majority, for this would mean that the four weeks of parliamentary meeting since Oct. 18 and the public expenses incurred would go to waste, with Ministers avoiding accountability for two weeks of debate on the 2,000 budget.
Such contempt for Parliamentary conventions and proprieties and insensitivity to public concerns about abuses of power and waste of public funds – and the dissolution of Parliament wasting four weeks of parliamentary meetings is the most recent example – is the result of political arrogance, irresponsibility and political hegemony of the Barisan Nasional after 42-year uninterrupted two-thirds parliamentary majority.
If Parliament is dissolved today, this will be a last-minute decision of Mahathir, who had clearly leaned towards having general election next January – caught on the one hand by the need to have more time to win back public support, especially the Malay heartland, and on the other, by the fear of the new 1999 electoral roll with its 650,000 new voters, and the Election Commission has already incurred opprobrium for delaying it till February.
I had until yesterday thought that Mahathir would call for polls in the last part of January, although I have not completely ruled out general election this month. This is why I have decided not to attend the Socialist International Congress which is currently meeting in Paris.
The prolonged delay in holding general election, until in the fifth year of the present Parliament, is because Mahathir has no confidence that he could secure parliamentary two-thirds majority, although he should have no worry about retaining power.
If Mahathir had been confident about securing two-thirds majority, the tenth general election would have been held long ago.
Two factors probably nudged Mahathir towards general election now. Firstly, the Nik Aziz controversy that PAS would be prepared to accept a non-Muslim as Prime Minister and the attempt by UMNO to use it to scare Malay voters that support for the Barisan Alternative would threaten Malay political dominance and Malay power.
Secondly, Anwar Ibrahim’s testimony in his trial, where he named names and gave specifics about corruption and abuses of power involving the highest in government, as for instance, in yesterday’s trial, naming Tun Daim Zainuddin, MCA President and Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik, Consumer Affairs Minister, Datuk Megat Junid Megat Ayob, as opposed to the new Anti-Corruption Act introduced by Anwar when he was Acting Prime Minister, and how the Prime Ministerr directed the use of public funds to bail out crony companies, including Ting Pek King arising from the suspension of the Bakun dam project.
The dissolution of Parliament in mid-session will save Barisan Nasional Ministers from the embarrassment of having to answer to speeches by DAP MPs in the budget debate.
In my three-hour budget speech, I had devoted a considerable section to the Barisan Nasional government’s double-standards on the issue of corruption and abuses of power – how nothing had been done as regards Anwar’s four police reports on corruption and abuses of power naming the high-and-mighty, substantiated with supportive documentary evidence, while Barisan Nasional leaders accepted as gospel truth the Abdul Murad statutory declaration although there was not an iota of evidence to support the former Bank Negara assistant governor’s allegation that Anwar had acquired a RM3 billion fortune through over 20 "Master Accounts" during his period in government.
The government also would not have to respond to embarrassing revelations that the government’s 2000 Budget had copied from the Barisan Alternative’s budget released two days earlier. I had pointed out the case of the cancellation of television licences, which the first Finance Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin, copied from the Barisan Alternative budget in the last minute, but it was done in so hurried a manner that there was no time to amend the budgetary papers. As a resullt, the budgetary estimates on Federal Revenues for 2000 still showed that the government expected to collect RM20.7 million from television licences for next year.
Now, there is a surreptitious attempt to correct the mistakes in the budgetary papers, four long pages of errors – which is the longest I have ever seen in my 30-year parliamentary experience showing the utter lack of care and responsibility in preparing the budgetary documents for Parliament. One such correction is with regard to revenue from television licences for 2000, which is zero and not RM20.7 million as earlier estimated.
It is now nearly two weeks since the announcement by Daim on 29th October 1999 that television licence had been cancelled since April 1, 1999, but there has been no refund of the licence fees which had been collected after April 1, 1999.
The government has estimated that some RM67 million would have to be refunded, but I estimate that the total sum could exceed RM80 million.
The government had said that only television licences taken out after April 1, 1999 would be refunded. This cannot be right, for many had taken three or five-year licences before April 1, 1999 and who should be entitled to refund. Even those who took out the annual television licence before April 1, 1999 should be entitled to refund of their outstanding portion of their licences after the cut-off date.
I would suggest that the RM80 million arising from the refund of television licences should be put into a trust fund for productive use, after getting the consent of all involved and allowing them a role in the management of this RM80 million special fund.
If there is dissolution, the Election Commission must immediately demonstrate that it can discharge its constitutional mandate to conduct free, fair and clean election. The least the Election Commission must ensure is that the 10th general election will not be the "dirtiest" in the nation’s history.
There are three areas the Election Commission must give special attention: