BA MPs should protest in the strongest terms at the Barisan Nasional government  refusal to appoint the PAC Chairman and Deputy Chairman from the Opposition

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): The Barisan Nasional government has rejected  proposals that in keeping with established parliamentary conventions and practices  in other Commonwealth Parliaments, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) should come from the Opposition.

Such a parliamentary convention is designed to ensure that the PAC can play its full role as the  the premier parliamentary watchdog against financial improprieties, irregularities and other forms of abuses in public expenditure.

This is why in the past 139 years, the House of Commons in the United Kingdom has established and observed  the tradition of choosing  the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee from the Opposition since the creation of PAC in 1861.

However, in the Malaysian Parliament, we have the opposite tradition of choosing a government MP to head the Public Accounts Committee since the first general election 41 years ago in 1959 to ensure the minimum check on financial accountability and integrity in  public expenditures.

This is the primary reason why the PAC in Malaysia had never been able to make the impact made by other PACs in the United Kingdom or other Commonwealth Parliaments which continued with the proper tradition of appointing an Opposition MP to head the PAC.

The PAC should  play a very important role as a check-and-balance on government financial abuses, excesses and malpractices and its annual report should be an important event which all Malaysians look forward to - not only for Parliament but for the nation which is serious about good governance.

But in Malaysia, nobody has been bothered about the PAC reports - because without an Opposition to head it, the PAC cannot play its full and real role as the highest custodian of government public accountability.

After the Nov. 29, 1999 general election, I had called for far-reaching parliamentary reforms starting with the appointment of the Chairman of the PAC from the opposition.

The refusal of the Barisan Nasional government to appoint the PAC Chairman from the Opposition shows that the Barisan Nasional government is not prepared to recognise the significance of the Opposition vote in the recent general election.

This is not a good sign that the Barisan Nasional government would be able to provide the lead in the process of national reconciliation and the healing of the wounds  after the dirtiest general election in the nationís history.

Despite conducting the dirtiest election in the nationís history, and the undemocratic  disenfranchment of  680,000 new voters of their constitutional right to vote, the Barisan Nasional  only managed to secure  some 56 per cent of the national votes cast, although it won a disproportionate 75 per cent of the parliamentary seats in winning 148 out of  193 parliamentary seats.

UMNO was the loser in the Barisan Nasional in the last general election, but both the Chairman and Deputy Chairman being proposed for the PAC come from UMNO!

When the Dewan Rakyat holds its first working sitting next Tuesday, MPs would be asked to approve a motion to be moved by the Minister in the Prime Ministerís Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim  re-appointing the UMNO MP for Rompin, Datoí Dr. Jamaluddin bin Mohd. Jarjis as PAC Chairman and the UMNO MP for Tambun, Haji Ahmad Husni bin Mohamed Hanadzlah as Deputy Chairman.

Is there no MP in MCA, Gerakan, MIC, PBB or SUPP qualified to become PAC Deputy Chairman if UMNO in Barisan Nasional insists on the monopoly of the PAC chairmanship?

In any event, why was the proposal that the PAC Chairman should be appointed from the Opposition in keeping with established parliamentary conventions and practices in all other Commonwealth Parliaments rejected?

I would have thought that with Datuk Dr. Rais appointed as the Minister responsible for parliamentary affairs, he would be more sympathetic to parliamentary reforms. I am again disappointed. Rais owes to both the country and people an explanation for his anti-reformist proposal appointing two UMNO MPs to monopolise the posts of Chairman and Deputy Chairman of PAC.

Barisan Alternative MPs should protest in the strongest terms at the refusal of the Barisan Nasional government to appoint the PAC Chairman and Deputy Chairman from the Opposition.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman