DAP welcomes establishment of  Cabinet Committee on Good Governance but wants to know its composition, terms of reference, powers and modus operandi

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Saturday): Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi  said yesterday that the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir  Mohamad had reminded ministers at the first meeting of the new Cabinet on December 15, 1999 that they cannot have business interests  and should relinquish any post they hold in companies.

This was given headline treatment by the mainstream media as if it is something path-breaking and revolutionary, when it is no news at all, as it is  so elementary a rule that a Cabinet Minister who does not know of its existence  is not fit to be appointed a Minister in the first place!

Abdullah told reporters after chairing a committee on good governance at the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya yesterday that Cabinet Ministers had been directed by Dr. Mahathir  to carry out their duties with collective responsibility, loyalty, efficiency and dedication.

What I find interesting is not what Abdullah said after  chairing a committee on good governance, but the nature of the committee which he had chaired.

I assume that the Cabinet had set up a Cabinet Committee on Good  Governance under Abdullah as Chairman to replace the previous Cabinet Committee on Corruption and Malpractices headed by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim when he was Deputy Prime Minister and which fell defunct after Anwar’s sacking from government and UMNO.  Abdullah himself was never appointed to head the
Cabinet Committee on Corruption and Malpractices from January to November 1999 when he was later appointed Deputy Prime Minister.

DAP welcomes the establishment of a Cabinet Committee on Good Governance under Abdullah, but why is there no proper announcement of its formation. We also want to know its composition, terms of reference, powers and modus operandi - as it must encompass the important jurisdiction to fight corruption and all forms of abuses of power.

It was reported that among those who attended the meeting of the committee on good governance were Primary Industries Minister Datuk Dr Lim Keng Yaik, Information Minister Tan Sri Mohd Khalil Yaakob, Education Minister  Tan Sri Musa Mohamad, Rural Development Minister Datuk Azmi Khalid, Ministers in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, Datuk Dr Rais Yatim and Datuk Dr Abdul Hamid Othman, and Chief Secretary to the Government, Tan Sri Abdul Halim Ali.

Do they constitute the full membership of the Cabinet Committee on Good Governance, and if not, who are the other Cabinet Ministers on the committee?

Abdullah said the Prime Minister had directed Cabinet  ministers to  be "honest, sincere, diligent,  efficient and open"  when discharging their duties as well as to be "hands-on in their work".

How can Ministers be "hands-on in their work" when they play truant from Parliament, delegating their parliamentary duties  to their deputy ministers and parliamentary secretaries and chalking up the worst parliamentary attendance record as a group in previous sessions of Parliament?

The first directive of the Cabinet Committee on Good Governance should be to require all  Ministers to assume full personal responsibility to diligently attend to their parliamentary duties, as answering questions or replying to speeches affecting their Ministries, which cannot be delegated to their deputy ministers or parliamentary secretaries unless there are good and acceptable reason why the Ministers could not be present in Parliament.  Such reasons should be given in Parliament if the absence of a Minister to reply to questions or speeches relating to his Ministry is raised in the Dewan Rakyat.

With such a directive and Ministerial leadership by example, the prevalent problem of Barisan Nasional MPs playing truant by not being present at all Dewan Rakyat meetings would be resolved immediately.

In this connection, Malaysians are entitled to know what are the various Cabinet Committees which had been set up, their composition and terms of reference, and not to learn about them  indirectly and as in the case of the committee on good governance.

*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman