Challenge to Rais Yatim to make public in Parliament all parliamentary claims by MPs which exceed RM5,000 a month since December 1999 and submit them for thorough investigation by Special Parliamentary Committee assisted by the Anti-Corruption Agency
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Thursday): The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Dr. Rais Yatim, said after the Cabinet meeting in Langkawi yesterday that “claims of more than RM10,000 a month for a member of Parliament is unreasonable because the average monthly claims usually amount to about RM5,000”. He said claims which exceeded the "normal" amount should be investigated to ascertain their validity.
He said most ministers did not make
substantial claims while he himself usually claimed less than RM5,000 per
month. He supported the move by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) in
questioning 14 members of Parliament who had made claims exceeding RM10,000
per month and described the agency's action as showing accountability and
Rais should also make public all his own parliamentary claims as he said that he himself usually claimed less than RM5,000 per month, as the Malaysian public are entitled to know whether he was only referring to his claims as a Member of Parliament but not as a Cabinet Minister; and if so, what was his average monthly claim as a Minister, and whether his average monthly claims as a Minister is higher or lower than his claims as a Member of Parliament.
Isn’t it true that apart from parliamentary claims, Ministers are entitled to Ministerial claims which was only recently doubled to five-digit figures? As Rais is talking about accountabilility and responsibility, is he prepared to make public all the monthly allowances paid to Ministers and Deputy Ministers, giving detailed individual breakdowns going back to December 1999, so that they could be queried and investigated if there is anything amiss?
It is most regrettable that Rais, like the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Noh Omar had conspicuously failed to make the important distinction between “meeting claims” and “non-meeting claims” by MPs, although I had been pointing this out for the past week.
As Rais had declared that claims which exceeded the "normal" amount of RM5,000 a month should be investigated to ascertain their validity, he should accept the challenge to make public in Parliament all parliamentary claims which exceed RM5,000 a month so that they could be investigated by the Committee of Privileges and/or the ACA.
I maintain that it is most improper that an outside body, the ACA, should be investigating the allegation of excessive parliamentary claims by MPs when the Committee of Privileges which had been specifically established to deal with all cases of breach of parliamentary privilege continues with its hibernation, as it had never met a single time since its establishment in the past three years and 10 months.
However, as MPs are neither prepared nor capable of asserting their parliamentary privileges and protecting the dignity of the institution of Parliament from encroachments from the government by insisting that it is the Committee of Privileges or a special Parliamentary Select Committee which should be the main body to investigate into the allegations of excessive, false and corrupt parliamentary claims, I have no strong objection to the ACA solely conducting investigations into the scandal of excessive parliamentary claims, as it is in the public interest to establish the truth or otherwise of the allegations.
I deplore however the continued marginalization of Parliament in the Malaysian scheme of things.
I have nonetheless strong reservations as to whether the ACA could be professional, independent and impartial in its investigations, as it has a record of playing the “political game” of the Barisan Nasional against the Opposition, announcing anti-corruption investigations not so much to get to the root of corruption but solely to help the Barisan Nasional score political points to embarrass the opposition.
To address grave public reservations about the professionalism, independence and impartiality of the ACA, as well as to halt the reckless and relentless marginalisation of Parliament, the Dewan Rakyat should set up a five-men Parliamentary Claims Inquiry Committee to conduct public hearings, assisted by the Anti-Corruption Agency entrusted with the responsibility to lead the examination in the inquiry pertaining to excessive, false and corrupt parliamentary claims which exceed RM5,000 a month.
The five-member Parliamentary Committee should comprise two nominees each from the Barisan Nasional and the Opposition, who could be MPs or former MPs, chaired by an eminent Malaysian who received the unanimous support of both sides of the House in Parliament. The parliamentary public inquiry should be given a three-month time-frame to complete its investigations and to submit its findings and recommendations.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman