MPs who had brought Parliament into public contempt and disrepute because of their irresponsible utterances in Parliament in the past month should stand up one by one on Tuesday during the debate on 10% allowances increase for Ministers and MPs to tender sincere apologies
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Saturday): Deputy Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin yesterday said that my clarification why I had raised the New Straits Times Zainal Arifin’s column “Our MPs are not ready for prime-time TV” in Parliament on Wednesday and asking whether it should be referred to the Committee of Privileges “would not make him a hero of press freedom in the country”, claiming that it “would not hide the fact that Lim had previously threatened to refer journalists of other newspapers, including Utusan Malaysia, to the committee”.
I unabashedly stand for press freedom, but I do not equate press freedom with the freedom of the press to malign and defame MPs to bring Parliament into public ridicule and contempt. In the case of Zainuddin, he never stood for press freedom despite his journalistic background and beginnings, but he appears to defend the right of the Barisan Nasional-controlled mainstream press to malign and defame MPs, provided the target and victims are opposition parliamentarians. However, this is a right Zainuddin would not accord to non-mainstream media, as exemplified by the furore over Malaysiakini’s three-minute April Fool prank about the impending arrest and prosecution of three Ministers and one Mentri Besar for corruption.
In this connection, it must be noted that the Bar Council Chairman Yeo Yang Poh is doing neither the Bar Council nor the legal fraternity any service in his blind and unthinking support for the New Straits Times for its baseless and irresponsible front-page report on Thursday targeting me for allegedly leading Barisan Nasional MPs in an “attack” on NST, the freedom of speech and freedom of the Press. I congratulate Yeo as the Bar Council Chairman but hope he will exercise greater responsibility in future before he speaks in the name of the Bar.
The NST episode has highlighted two issues: the deplorable standard of parliamentary debate and performance by MPs and the equally deplorable media reporting and commentary of parliamentary proceedings.
MPs who had brought Parliament into public contempt and disrepute because of their irresponsible utterances in Parliament in the past month, whether on issues like the LRT courtesy campaign advertisement, MAS stewardess uniform and polygamy, or made sexist, offensive, silly remarks or “hare-brained” proposals should stand up one by one on Tuesday during the debate on 10% increase on allowances for Ministers and MPs to express their sincere apology and undertake to turn over a new leaf.
The Parliamentary Committee of Privileges should meet urgently to uphold the public esteem and dignity of Parliament, with a two-prong approach:
I am not suggesting that punitive action should follow in both cases, but it would be a salutary exercise as a first step to uplift the standard and quality of both parliamentary debate and performance by MPs as well as media reporting and commentary of parliamentary proceedings.
Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman