Four questions to ACA on whether it could be competent, professional and unbiased in its investigations into excessive parliamentary claims
- at a meeting of Selangor DAP state and branch leaders to review the latest political developments in the country with the Week Four countdown for the passing of the Prime Minister’s baton from Mahathir to Abdullah on November 1, 2003
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): The Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) Director of Investigations, Datuk Nordin Ismail said the ACA needed two months to complete its investigations into the excessive parliamentary claims by 14 MPs exceeding RM10,000 a month in the 18 months from January 2002 to June 2003.(Nanyang Siang Pau). Does this mean that all these MPs must live under the cloud of corruption investigations until next year?
It is clear that the ACA is set to proceed with its investigations into the MP’s parliamentary claims despite strong objections by Members of Parliament whether government or opposition that the proper body to conduct investigations is the Committee of Privileges rather than the ACA, as Parliaments all over the world jealously guard and uphold the principle that Parliament must be able to regulate its own affairs including monitoring and punishing MPs for any breaches of privileges such as excessive and false parliamentary claims.
There is nothing in law to stop the ACA from conducting investigations into excessive parliamentary claims if there is prima facie suspicion of corrupt practices, but there is also nothing in parliamentary practices to stop the Committee of Privileges from conducting a wide-ranging investigation into the whole controversy of parliamentary claims which has become a national scandal.
All that is needed is for Parliament to pass a motion directing the Committee of Privileges to investigate excessive parliamentary claims to restore public confidence in the credibility and integrity of Members of Parliament. Why is there no such motion in the Dewan Rakyat under Standing Order 80 to refer the whole issue to the Committee of Privileges for a thorough investigation?
I do not accept the argument of the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Rais Yatim in Jempol yesterday that the Dewan Rakyat does not have the authority to probe the allegations that 14 MPs had made excessive claims and that only the police and the ACA could conduct such investigations. Recently, Rais’ understanding and interpretation of the law and parliamentary practices have become more and more bizarre and alien from established rules and principles as well as parliamentary conventions and traditions.
Be that as it may, the real problem is that the Speaker, Tun Mohamjad Zahir Ismail, who under the Standing Orders is the Chairman of the Committee of Privileges, does not want to be involved in such sordid business of investigating MPs – especially in his final months of a long five-term Speakership of Parliament spanning the premiership of Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad since 1982, making him the longest-serving Speaker in Malaysian history, followed by Tan Sri Datuk Chok Mohd Yusuf, 1964-1974.
This was why I had suggested from the beginning that Parliament should establish a five-men Parliamentary Inquiry Committee to conduct investigations into the excessive parliamentary claims, comprising two nominees each from the Barisan Nasional and the Opposition, who could be MPs or former MPs, chaired by an eminent Malaysian with unanimous support of the House.
The ACA should answer four questions on whether it could be competent, professional and unbiased in its investigations into the excessive parliamentary claims, without fear or favour:
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman