Privileges Committee majority report of 10-day suspension with apology or six-month suspension losing all parliamentary allowances and perks - Is Karpal being punished for his role in securing Anwar Ibrahim’s freedom after six years of persecution and incarceration?

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): The report tabled in Parliament yesterday in the name of the Privileges Committee  recommending that DAP National Deputy Chairman and  MP for Bukit Gelugor, Karpal Singh be suspended for 10 days if he apologises for “misleading” Parliament over the oath-taking ceremony or be suspended for six months and be deprived of  his parliamentary allowances and other perks is at most a majority report and not the full report of the Privileges Committee – as  it excluded the dissenting report of the Opposition member on the Committee, DAP MP for Bukit Mertajam, Chong Eng. 

The majority report is a very slipshod, unfair and vindictive piece of work which will undo the landmark Federal Court majority judgment yesterday acquitting Anwar Ibrahim of all sodomy charges and conviction, winning nation-wide and global plaudits not only for the judiciary but also the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi premiership, by again attracting international opprobrium for Malaysia’s system of governance because of its blatant injustice, contempt for fair play and arrogance of power. 

The Privileges Committee majority report, which should not have been presented to Parliament without a full report in its entirety,  including the minority dissent report of Chong Eng, is full of flaws, such as: 

  • Its  incomplete character, as it does not bear the signature of every member of the Parliamentary Privileges Committee, as is the parliamentary convention and practice, whether in Malaysia or in the first-world Commonwealth Parliaments.
  • The majority report’s unfair, vindictive and punitive recommendations for 10-day suspension with apology or six-month suspension without apology for Karpal Singh.
  • Violation of the rules of natural justice as the Privileges Committee had denied  Karpal Singh the  right to be heard by appearing before the Committee before any decision is made  impinging on his parliamentary privileges.
  • Failure to present the verbatim proceedings of the four  Privileges Committee meetings of 25th June, 10th July, 15th July and 10th August, 2004 on this issue although the verbatim reports had been prepared and are available;
  • Selective presentation and  omission of  important documentation, especially the notice  by Parliament to all MPs before the swearing-in  ceremony on May 17, 2004 on “Peraturan yang hendak diikuti” –  that an MP must raise his right hand when taking the oath.

Karpal and I were in Kuantan to take part in the national-level 47th National Day Celebrations. At the National Day parade, the tens of thousands of participants, together with the Yang di Pertuan Agong, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the entire Cabinet, all put up their right hand to take the national “Ikrar” – highlighting the right and proper way of taking a pledge or oath. 

If Karpal is punished for raising the question on the propriety of MPs taking their oath without putting up their right hand, it will make a mockery of the whole spirit of the 47th National Day celebrations, as well as making Parliament an international laughing-stock for “making a mountain out of a molehill” of such a minor issue. 

For the sake of the good name of Parliament, his premiership and the country, I call on the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to give serious personal attention to the most irregular, improper and unparliamentary presentation of a biased, unfair and vindictive majority report of the Privileges Committee, denying the right to Chong Eng to submit  a dissent minority report. 

If the  majority report of the Committee of Privileges is allowed to be debated and adopted without the benefit of a dissenting minority report, it will  not just be Karpal Singh who will be in the dock, but also the  Privileges Committee, Parliament itself and in particular,  the Speaker, Tun Mohamad Zahir Ismail.  This is because the Speaker’s influence and role is very conspicuous in the entire proceedings against Karpal. 

In fact, it will be the occasion for the examination of the Speaker’s role in previous unfair and improper disciplinary proceedings against DAP MPs, such as the DAP MP for Batu Gajah Fong Po Kuan, leading to her six-month suspension without allowance in 2001/2002, Karpal’s expulsion from the House in 1985 and the suspension of the then DAP MP for Sandakan, Fung Ket Wing in 1984. 

The question has been raised  whether the Privileges Committee majority report of 10-day suspension with apology or six-month suspension losing all parliamentary allowances and perks is a punishment for  Karpal for his role in securing Anwar Ibrahim’s freedom after six years of persecution and incarceration, considering that Tun  Zahir had been a five-term Speaker during the 22-year premiership of the fifth Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. 

The fair and proper thing to do is for the withdrawal or reference of the Privileges Committee majority report for its fuller reconsideration by the  Privileges Committee, bearing in mind that Parliament should be enhancing rather than spoiling the new international image for the country following the landmark Federal Court majority judgment yesterday acquitting Anwar Ibrahim, as well as  giving full recognition to the right to publish  minority dissenting reports in the  Privileges Committee or any other Parliamentary Select Committee.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman