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
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.