Abdullah’s failure to withdraw the anti-terrorism bills from Parliament to allow for great civil society consultation and input my second disappointment with the new Prime Minister
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): Two days ago, I had expressed my first disappointment with the new Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi that although he had made a great maiden official speech in Parliament on Monday raising high expectations that he would bring about changes and improvements to governance and democracy, the doctrine of separation of powers, the fight against corruption, he had failed to acknowledge the parliamentary crisis of confidence because of the usurpation of Parliament’s role and powers by the Executive, reducing it to a mere rubber stamp of the Cabinet.
My disappointment had been vindicated by what transpired in Parliament yesterday. The Dewan Rakyat had adjourned at 5.15 p.m, 15 minutes ahead of the daily adjournment time at 5.30 p.m., during the government winding-up of the debate on the Eighth Malaysia Plan Mid-Term Review. Although there were still 15 minutes of meeting time, and the government’s winding-up had not been completed, as the reply of the Prime Minister’s Department in the debate had still to be delivered, the House was adjourned till this morning.
This was unprecedented in the history of Parliament, having to wait for any member of the government front-benches. Backbenchers, from both the government and the opposition, as well as members of the press, were given to understand that this was to accommodate the new Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who wanted to be in Parliament to personally reply on behalf of the Prime Minister’s Department.
But this morning, Abdullah did not turn up in Parliament to wind up the Mid-Term Review debate, as it was the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim, who stood in for the Prime Minister.
It would appear that Abdullah was never scheduled to appear in Parliament today to wind up the Mid-Term Review debate. So was Parliament made to adjourn 15 minutes earlier to wait for the Prime Minister or the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department. In whichever case, this is a most unhealthy and undesirable practice and precedent for Parliament, as the highest legislative chamber and political forum of the land should not have to wait for the pleasure of any Cabinet Minister or even the Prime Minister – and I hope this is not a disturbing sign of the arrogance and insensitivity of a new political leadership in the country.
Today, I wish to express my second disappointment – Abdullah’s chairing of the first National Security Council (NSC) meeting on Tuesday, where he failed to use the occasion to announce the deferment of the government’s proposed anti-terrorism laws for passage by Parliament to allow for greater civil society consultation as the draft anti-terrorism legislation are so wide-ranging in scope and vague in definition that they could be open to great abuses of power.
The proposed anti-terrorism laws should have been drafted with full involvement of all political parties, the Bar Council, Suhakam, human rights NGOs and the civil society to ensure adequate safeguards to protect the fundamental liberties of Malaysians, and since this important process had not been observed, the anti-terrorism bills should be withdrawn from Parliament to benefit from such consultation.
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib said after the NSC meeting that Abdullah wanted preventive measures against the Jemaah Islamiah leaders and members to continue but he also wanted to find out what influenced them to become militants.
The slew of anti-terrorism laws should never have been presented to Parliament for passage without a White Paper on Terrorism, detailing the activities and connections of the alleged Kumpulan Militant Malaysia (KMM), Jemaah Islamiyah and al-Qaeda in Malaysia, including the roles of Hambali, the identity of Malaysians who are currently in US custody and the country’s international profile and notoriety for being associated with international terrorism.
The White Paper should also explain why the Malaysian government has not put KMM and JI members on trial for the “inhumane and despicable crimes” they were alleged to have committed in Malaysia, including bank robberies and the assassination of the Lunas state assemblyman Dr Joe Fernandez in November 2000 - when the Indonesian authorities could publicly put on trial those responsible for the Bali bomb blasts last October which killed over 200 people.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman