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 JayaSunday): 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: 

  • Firstly, why the ACA keeps referring to 14 MPs who had submitted claims exceeding RM10,000 a month when Datuk Noh Omar, the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department, had in his answer during question-time in Parliament on Sept. 24 named 16 MPs – 14 last year and six for the first half of this year (which included four names listed last year and two new names)?
  • Secondly, what  is the reason for the ACA initiating corruption  investigations into the “14 MPs” who had claimed over RM10,000 a month in the 18-month period?  Has the ACA taken the stand that there is a prima facie case of corruption purely on the ground that  MPs had submitted claims exceeding RM10,000 a month, but that there is no prima facie corruption for those whose monthly claims are RM10,000, RM9,999 or below?  An immediate response from the ACA is warranted as it affects public confidence in its professionalism and that it does not act arbitrarily or at the beck and call of the powers-that-be.
  • Thirdly, why is the ACA so swift in initiating corruption investigations based on the report of Kelantan UMNO Youth lodged against the PAS MP for Jeli, Mohd Apandi Mohamad for excessive parliamentary claims when the ACA had failed to act on  reports which  had been lodged earlier against Barisan Nasional state government leaders and assembly members for improper and excessive claims?
  • Fourthly, is the ACA prepared to conduct a full-scale probe into  the monthly claims of  Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries which run into five-digit figures?


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman