When I was overseas, I had maintained contact with developments back home principally through the Internet, especially the online media - and the biggest development undoubtedly was the vindictive and petty-minded motion by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim on the last sitting of the 2002 Budget meeting on Tuesday, December 11, 2001 suspending the DAP MP for Batu Gajah, Fong Po Kuan for six months without pay for publicly criticising the Speaker, Tun Zahir Mohamad Ismail, for rejecting her motion of urgent, definite public importance on the multi-layered Certificate in Practice (CLP) examinations scandal.
However, I was truly shocked when I came home yesterday and read the print media which proved beyond a shadow of doubt of the gross miscarriage of justice in the Fong Po Kuan case, and in particular, the gross impropriety of Zahir in blatant breach of the most fundamental rule of natural justice of not being a judge of his own cause.
A day before Rais’ motion was debated in Parliament, and before MPs could independently and impartially decide whether the youngest, woman and opposition MP in Parliament had committed any breach of parliamentary privilege, Zahir had already prejudged the issue and trumpeted to the world that Fong was guilty of insulting him as Speaker and should be punished.
The Star of December 11, 2001 carried a report with the following heading:”Motion against Fong to deter abuse of Chair” which quoted Zahir as saying that the motion against Fong was “to stop other members from disparaging the Dewan and the Chair”.
Zahir told reporters that Fong was not the only MP to have questioned the integrity of the Dewan and accused him of having “abused my power”. He said: “That’s why we have to put a stop to them abusing the Chair. The position of the Speaker is equivalent to the highest court in the country and the Chair is like the judge.”
New Straits Times of the same day, under the heading, “Speaker defends motion to suspend Batu Gajah MP”, alleged that Fong’s criticism of him as Speaker was tantamout to contempt and said that Fong should be suspended if she refused to apologise to the House.
From Zahir’s public remarks, it was clear that he had stepped down from the Speaker’s chair and entered the parliamentary ring to accuse and pre-judge Fong of having committed breach of privilege which warranted an unprecedented six-month suspension without pay.
But Zahir has overlooked the fact that however elevated the position of Speaker, it does not confer on him the right, power or prerogative to be the prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner all in one.
It was precisely to prevent the tyranny of the Speaker that there is the parliamentary tradition, convention and practice to have a Committee of Privileges to inquire into any breach of parliamentary privilege, whether alleged by a Member of Parliament or the Speaker himself, after a full and thorough hearing.
But in Fong’ case, the Speaker had not only stepped down from the Speaker’s Chair and entered the parliamentary ring to be a “boxer” himself, he had arrogated to himself the powers of prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner all in one!
Rais’ motion did not allow for any parliamentary inquiry as to whether Fong had committed any parliamentary privilege, but was to stage a kangaroo court to show off the brute strength of the mindless Barisan Nasional parlamentary majority to rubber-stamp a decision which had been taken even before the parliamentary debate.
Zahir should ponder and personally remedy the gross miscarriage of justice in the Fong Po Kuan case where Parliament did not become the highest court but the highest kangaroo court of the land.
He should have the humility to admit his grave error in misusing his powers as Speaker, actuated by his own personal feelings, which has made December 11, 2001 a day of shame and dishonour for the Malaysian Parliament, as well as sullied his five-term Speakership, review what he had done and undertake to remedy the grave miscarriage of justice to Fong by ensuring that the first item of business when Parliament reconvenes in March is to restore justice and fair play to Fong by rescinding the December 11 motion suspending Fong by six months without pay.