Contempt of Parliament - LKS replies to NST

- in reply to NST Report & Commentary, 20.4.2005
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Thursday):   


April 21, 2005                                                            By Fax & Email




New Straits Times,





Ref: NST should doubly apologise for its  low quality of parliamentary reporting and completely misunderstanding the thrust and purpose of my raising Zainul Arifin’s column in Parliament



I refer to your front-page report today ‘Humiliated’ MPs attack NST – DAP’s Kit Siang leads with support from BN members” continuing into page 8,  with me leading a quartet of photographs of four  MPs on the front-page  under the headline question “The untouchables” as well as the commentary by the NST editor-in-chief Kalimullah Hassan in pages 4 and 12, entitled “Column was fair comment”.


Let me state from the outset that I fully agree that there is an urgent need   for a higher standard and quality of parliamentary debate by MPs, which is why I had been consistently and persistently calling for parliamentary reform and modernization to upgrade parliamentary standards and performance.


There is, however, an  equally urgent need to raise the standard and quality of media reporting and commentary about parliamentary proceedings as well national affairs, which is  highlighted by the NST parliamentary reporting and commentary alleging that I had led, with the support from BN members, in an onslaught on the NST for Zainul Arrifin’s column “Our MPs are not ready for prime-time TV”.


I did not lead, and I have no doubt that Barisan Nasional MPs do not want to be led by me, in any onslaught on NST.  In fact, Barisan Nasional MPs are very sheepish and shame-faced about the whole episode. 


I do not know whether Barisan Nasional MPs are “untounchables” but DAP MPs and leaders have always belong to the  most vulnerable political group  in the eyes of the “mainstream media”, or I would not be treated as a “non-person” by them all these years, including the 17 months of a new premiership which is supposed to herald reform, including in the fourth estate!


The NST commentary “Column was fair comment” is guilty of blow-below-the-belt when it said:


“So what did "Mr Opposition" Lim Kit Siang, who often passes himself off as a champion of democracy and the free Press, find so offensive?

As an MP, Lim has the power to suggest that Zainul be referred to the Privileges Committee. Are we all not glad that he does not have the power of the Internal Security Minister to revoke the licence of a newspaper?”


What is the basis for the NST leap in its baseless and unwarranted  insinuation that I would have revoked the NST licence if I had the power to do so as the Internal Security Minister, when  I had always advocated the repeal of the  annual press licensing law?


NST should doubly apologise for its  low quality of parliamentary reporting and completely misunderstanding the thrust and purpose of my raising Zainul Arifin’s column in Parliament yesterday.


Firstly, the NST report opened saying that “Members of Parliament -  from both sides of the parliamentary divide – spent the morning session of the Dewan Rakyat” yesterday criticizing the NST for having “humiliated” them.   In actual fact, not more than 7.5 minutes were spent on the NST column in two separate episodes yesterday morning or about 4% of the three-hour morning session!


Secondly, I am astounded that NST has completely missed and mistaken the thrust and purpose of my raising Zainal Arifin’s column, which was to highlight the deplorable behaviour of a handful of Barisan Nasional MPs who had brought Parliament into disrepute and public contempt, and probably justified Zainal’s strictures.


When I suggested that the NST and Zainul Arifin be referred to the Committee of Privileges, I was not making any prejudgment that Zainul Arifin was guilty of breach of privilege or contempt of Parliament and should therefore be penalized, but to provide a forum to focus public scrutiny on MPs’ conduct, standard and quality of debate.


When I first referred to the NST column during the debate on the Prime Minister’s Department during the committee stage of the second 2004 supplementary estimates  yesterday, I said that anyone reading the NST column Our MPs are not ready for prime-time TV” will get the impression that it was highly contemptuous of MPs and Parliament.


When I asked whether MPs shared the same feeling that the column was contemptuous of Members of Parliament, (menghinakan Ahli Parlimen), there was general agreement even among Barisan Nasional MPs.  But I continued and asked:


“The most pertinent question is whether the writer Zainul Arifin not only has the right but is right! He is in the right to be contemptuous of MPs because of the behaviour of MPs which have brought this contempt on themselves?  Is he right?”


I went on to say that if Zainul is wrong in writing about Parliament bringing it into public contempt, then Barisan Nasional MPs should agree to refer him to the Committee of Privileges.  I asked specifically whether Barisan Nasional MPs, who comprise 92 per cent in the House, were prepared to refer Zainul to the Committee of Privileges for contempt of Parliament, which would give him the opportunity  to justify his writing, or whether the Barisan Nasional MPs were “guilty conscious” and not prepared for such a reference.


I next asked whether Barisan Nasional MPs were prepared to defend their conduct and debate in the past two weeks, which had made Parliament a national laughing-stock, on issues like the  LRT courtesy campaign advertisement, MAS stewardess uniform and  polygamy.


This challenge to Barisan Nasional MPs to refer Zainul to the Committee of Privileges for contempt of Parliament for his column was not taken up simply because Barisan Nasional MPs knew that adverse criticisms not only by Zainul but by the general public on the issues named  were valid and fully justified, and that if there is public contempt of Parliament, they had brought it upon themselves by their own behaviour and conduct.


I append the transcript of the 6.5 minutes of the first episode yesterday relating to this reference, and the video clip of this  Parliamentary proceeding  is also accessible on the DAP website,


In my speeches in Parliament yesterday, I spoke about corruption, the death of Department of Environment officer Rumie Azzan Mahlie,  why the Anti-Corruption Agency is not transparent about its investigations, the urgent need for Whistle Blowers’ legislation to protect those who can give information to combat corruption, Islam Hadhari, the views and criticisms of non-Muslim religious groups about justice and fair play in the treatment of all religions, and the need for open and tolerant attitude on the free use of languages, including Bahasa Malaysia, by all religions for three  reasons: (1) Bahasa Malaysia is the national and  common language of all Malaysians regardless of religion; (2) the era of information technology when all languages and religious are easily accessible, whether on the Internet or otherwise; and (3) Malaysia must move towards a future with “Open Minds” and not “Closed Societies”.


As usual, I was blacked out by the NST as a “non-person” in Malaysian Parliament and politics.


Nonetheless, NST can be assured of my support if it is campaigning for improvement in the quality of parliamentary debate and performance, but it must prepared to do so in tandem with the  uplifting of  its media quality, both reporting and commentary, whether parliamentary proceedings or national developments.


I hope the NST can demonstrate  fair play by according this reply front-page treatment.  This  response also refers to the Berita Harian which carries a similar report today.              



Yours sincerely,


Lim Kit Siang

Parliamentary Opposition Leader



*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman