Zahir should resign as Speaker as the six-month no-pay suspension of youngest and woman DAP MP Fong Poh Kuan for trying to raise the CLP examination scandal has ended his 19-year five-term Speakership with dishonour and shame

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(London, Wednesday): Two weeks ago, the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim publicly ridiculed the Parliament Speaker, Tun Mohamad Zahir Ismail as "not privy to the constitutional procedures" for the appointment of Datuk Abdul Gani Patail as the new Attorney-General when giving reasons for rejecting DAP MP for Seputeh, Teresa Koh's motion of urgent, definite public importance on the public controversy over the constitutionality and propriety of Gani's appointment.

I had said that if Rais was right that Zahir was wrong in making two assumptions about Gani's appointment as the basis for rejecting Kok's motion, which would mean that Zahir was simply talking “rubbish”, then the time had come for the five-term Speaker to step down from his office.

I had not specifically called for Zahir's resignation as it was not for me to decide as to who was right in the Rais-Zahir spat, although going by Rais' speech in his motion to suspend DAP MP Fong Po Kuan for six months without pay, Rais should have been the first MP and Minister to be suspended for six months without pay for precisely the same offence he had levelled against Fong - showing contempt and no respect for the Speaker in public!

I am now calling for Zahir to resign as Speaker of Parliament as the six-month no-pay suspension of youngest and woman DAP MP Fong Poh Kuan for trying to raise the Certificate in Legal Practice (CLP) examination scandal has ended his 19-year five-term Speakership with dishonour and shame.

As a former judge, Zahir has breached the most fundamental rule of natural justice of not being a judge of his own cause especially as he has a direct vested interest - the alleged public disrespect by Fong to him as Speaker in publicly criticising his rejection of her motion on the CLP scandal.

Zahir was fully aware of the rule of natural justice that a person must not be a judge of his own cause by staying away from the four-hour debate yesterday on Rais' motion to suspend Fong, but Zahir observed it only in form but not in substance.

This was because Zahir had already violated this fundamental rule of natural justice when he approved the suspension of the seven-day notice required for a Ministerial motion under Standing Order 27(3), which empowers the Speaker to grant only one day's notice for a motion in the name of a Minister  "if Tuan Yang Di Pertua is satisfied upon representation to him by a minister that the public interest requires that a motion should be debated as soon as possible".

Fong's media statement criticising the Speaker for rejecting her CLP motion was issued on 4th December 2001 and there was no way for Rais to comply with the seven-day notice required of ordinary Ministerial motions for the debate to be held yesterday - and he had to seek the Speaker's approval for the dispensation of the seven-day notice.

Zahir had clearly abused his powers under Standing Orders 27(3) on two grounds:

Firstly, what "representation" had been submitted by Rais to convince Zahir that "the public interest" requires that his vindictive and petty-minded motion against Fong should be "debated as soon as possible"?  In fact, I would want to ask whether Rais had made any representation at all under Standing Order 27(3) for the suspension of the seven-day notice for a Ministerial motion, or whether the Speaker had suspended the seven-day notice without any written representation as required under the Standing Orders. If Rais had submitted a written "representation" for the dispensation of the seven-day notice for Ministerial motions, then his "representation" should be made public as Malaysians have a right to know whether the "representation" was a substantial one - especially as there were  so many pressing national issues which required  more parliamentary priority attention when compared to the motion against Fong but were completely ignored!

Secondly, even more fatal, Zahir had acted as a judge of his own  cause and allowed his vested interests to taint his judgement to allow Rais to dispense with the seven-day notice requirement. In fact, on Monday - one day before the debate on the motion - Zahir was reported in Malaysiakini as saying that "no one should be allowed to bring down the dignity of the House or abuse it. Anyone who does so must be stopped”; declaring that "MPs who abuse the Parliament should be disciplined as the House is the highest court in the country". In this case, Zahir was not only acting as a judge of his own cause, but also as an advocate of his own cause as well - a most unjudicial and injudicious conduct for the five-term Speaker of Parliament who was an ex-judge!

On the latter ground alone, Zahir should resign as Speaker of Parliament in disgrace! In robust and healthy Parliaments in other Commonwealth countries, there would have been a public uproar both inside and outside Parliament at such scandalous Speaker behaviour. The Malaysian parliamentary democracy however suffers from a serious malady!

But there are other fatal procedural defects in Rais' motion against Fong, like the violation of Standing Orders 26(2) and (3) which require a motion to cut Fong's parliamentary allowance by six months to first seek the recommendation and approval of the Minster for Finance, which had not been done - showing the utter contempt of Zahir and Rais for the Standing Orders and the rule of law.

But it is the violation of the democratic and constitutional right of the people of Batu Gajah to be served by the MP of their election which is the greatest objection to the passage of Rais motion by 83-28 votes. Privately, Barisan Nasional MPs tell Opposition MPs that the penalty was too harsh and there were even those who felt that the motion should never have been presented in the House - but there was not a single Barisan Nasional MP who had the courage, principle or honesty to stand up in the House to express opposition not only to the six-month suspension without pay of Fong, but the whole idea of the motion completely by-passing parliamentary traditions and conventions of referring such matters to the Committee of Privileges.

Yesterday was a triumph for the brute and blind Barisan Nasional majority in Parliament but it was a day of shame for Zahir, Rais and the 83 Barisan Nasional MPs who voted to suspend Fong without pay for six months.

Zahir and Rais had the Parliament numbers yesterday to bulldoze through the vindictive and petty-minded motion against Fong, but they must now convince the voters of Batu Gajah, the 23 million Malaysians and the world Parliamentary community that they have acted correctly and honourably and not indulged in triple discrimination - political, gender and against the youngest MP in the Malaysian Parliament.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman