Deputy Speaker most unfair  and irresponsible in not allowing the  Opposition MPs  the chance to expose the intellectually dishonest answers given by Rais on the rule of law during question time yesterday

Media statement
by Lim Kit Siang 

(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk .Dr. Rais Yatim  gave the most intellectually dishonest answers about the rule of law in Parliament during question time yesterday but  the Deputy Speaker Dato' Haji Muhamad bin Abdullah was most unfair  and irresponsible in not allowing any Opposition MP the chance to expose Rais’ intellectual dishonesty.

Rais  said that the concepts of ‘rule of law' as well as ‘rule by law' were practised in Malaysia with adjustments to suit the country's characteristics.

Quoting a maxim of well-known jurist,  Rosenhoff, that the ‘rule of law' is a concept based on the balance of power and administration which focuses on achieving justice for all, Rais said:

Rais said many countries including Malaysia's neighbours practised both concepts in meeting the needs of emergency and security laws.

He said that the ‘rule of law' was the central theme of the country's legal foundation and its tenets were found in Articles 121, 122 and 8 of the Federal Constitution, he added.

Rais  said all parties must abide by these Articles to ensure that Malaysians enjoy the protection of judicial and law enforcement agencies.

Rais was  being intellectually dishonest in trying to claim that there is rule of law in Malaysia when in his 1995 book "Freedom under Executive Power in Malaysia", based on his  research and study from 1991 and 1994 at King’s College, University of London, he was very categorical and unequivocal  in asserting that the  rule of law had been superseded by the  rule by law in Malaysia.

This is what Rais wrote in his book:

Rais was also very categorical and unequivocal in his assertion that there was no independence of the judiciary in Malaysia. This is what he wrote in his book: Rais used very harsh terms to express his contempt for Parliament’s failure to protect the rule of law and fundamental freedoms and instead, "aided and abetted in their serious violations", when he wrote: I was particularly drawn by  his lamentation  about the culture of fear and the lack of understanding and appreciation of the rule of law by the Malaysian people, especially as he has now personified the very culture of subservience and servility which he had condemned  in his book, when he  wrote: The state of the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, Parliament’s role as the safeguard of rights and freedoms, human rights and democracy have gravely worsened since the publication of Rais’ "Freedom under Executive Power in Malaysia", exposing the country to a slew of unfavourable international assessments which damaged the country’s international standing and jeopardised the long-term national  economic wellbeing of Malaysians by driving away international investors from the country.

The recent slew of unfavourable international assessments for Malaysia includes the damning 2001 Index of Economic Freedom where Malaysia dropped 57 places in the past six years from the 18th position in the 1995  index to the 75th position in the 2001 Index and slipped from "mostly free" to the "mostly unfree" category; the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s  2000 global competitiveness ranking showing a catastrophic collapse in Malaysia’s international competitiveness rating, falling by nine notches in the past year or 16 places in the past three years; Transparency International’s 2000 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) ranking Malaysia at the lowest placing ever at the 36th in 2000 as compared to 23rd in 1995 and the terrible indictment on the Malaysian system of justice by the international judicial and legal community in the report entitled "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" released worldwide in April this year.

It is sad that instead of informing Parliament as to what had been done in the past year since his appointment as Minister in the Prime Minister with specific responsibility for law and justice to restore the rule of law and regain national and international confidence in the system of justice, Rais has become the apologist par excellence of the very system which he had denounced in his book - a system which had since gone from bad to worse!

This was probably  why the Deputy Speaker, Datuk Haji Muhamad bin Abdullah, breached established parliamentary convention and did not allow any Opposition MP to ask a supplementary question to Rais, although this was the first time that Rais was standing up in Parliament since his return to Cabinet a year ago to talk about law and justice - the very portfolios under his direct responsibility.

Normally, two supplementary questions are allowed for each question during question time, but in this particular case, after answering the question by the Barisan Nasional MP for Jelutong and a supplementary question by the Barisan Nasional MP for Batang Lupar, the Deputy Speaker ignored the many Barisan Alternative MPs who had stood up to pose a supplementary question and went on to the next question. Muhamad might have "saved" Rais from a grilling from the Barisan Alternative - but at the expense of another example of the devaluation of the role of Parliament which Rais had described so aptly  in his book.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman