Noh Omar has got the wrong end of the stick - I did not criticize him for revealing MPs’ parliamentary claims but for recklessly failing to distinguish between “meeting” and “non-meeting” claims and subjecting all MPs to public suspicion, ridicule and contempt for improper and excessive claims
Media Conference Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): The parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Noh Omar has got the wrong end of the stick when he hit out at me for alleging that it was wrong for him to reveal MPs monthly parliamentary claims exceeding RM10,000.
I had not criticized him for revealing MPs’ parliamentary claims but for recklessly failing to distinguish between “meeting” and “non-meeting” claims, subjecting all MPs, whether government or opposition, to public suspicion, ridicule, odium and contempt for being far from honest and scrupulous in their claims in the highest political and legislative chamber in the land.
I do not believe the Malaysian people, if they are given proper information about the parliamentary regulations governing MPs’ claims for parliamentary meetings, will begrudge such parliamentary claims, provided MPs are diligent and conscientious, do not play truant as it is not uncommon for Parliament to be without quorum, and MPs indulging in irresponsible politicking instead of raising the burning political, economic, educational, social, environmental, legal and citizenship problems of the people in the Dewan Rakyat.
This is why Noh had done an injustice to the 15 MPs he named last Wednesday, who come from Barisan Nasional, PAS, Keadilan and DAP, as having submitted claims exceeding RM10,000 a month, whether once, twice or even three times, in the past 18 months as they appeared to be all “meeting” claims.
What is shocking however, and even news to me although I had been MP for 30 years from 1969 to 1999, is that “non-meeting” claims by MPs could exceed RM10,000 a month, when they receive invitations to Federal, State and government agency functions – which is clearly indefensible and waste of public funds.
This is why all the 16 MPs from both sides of the House named by Nor should publicly clarify whether their parliamentary claims exceeding RM10,000 a month were “meeting claims” or “non-meeting” claims. Furthermore, if it is wrong for an MP to have monthly “non-meeting” claims exceeding RM10,000, it cannot be right when they are below RM10,000 a month.
Far from criticizing Noh for revealing MPs’ parliamentary claims, I would want him to reveal all the “non-meeting’ claims of MPs and for Parliament to justify such high parliamentary expenditures in the public interest.
I have here the detailed parliamentary claims of the 14 MPs last year and six MPs this year exceeding RM10,000 a month, including the 10 claims by the MP for Jeli, Mohd Apandi Mohamad for last year and six claims for this year – which had been given by Noh to the parliamentary reporters.
What mystified me is Apandi’s claims which were higher when Parliament was not meeting as compared to when Parliament was in session. For instance, for October last year, when Parliament met for 19 sitting-days, his parliamentary claim was below RM10,000, but for May this year, when Parliament did not sit, his “non-meeting” claim was RM15,658.98.
Without imputing improper motives, a system which allows “non-meeting” claims to be so excessive and to be even higher than “meeting” claims calls for urgent review and revision.
I had said that the Anti-Corruption Agency is not the proper body to conduct investigations into the parliamentary claims controversy, as there is a Committee of Privileges in the Dewan Rakyat which had been set up to deal specifically with breaches of privilege.
Even if the ACA is to conduct investigations, it cannot be an excuse for inaction by the Committee of Privileges or some other form of Parliamentary committee to conduct its own investigations because of the fundamental principle that Parliament must be able to regulate its own affairs, including punishing and jailing MPs for breaches of privileges.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman