Glorious parliamentary history was to be made yesterday, with MPs from both sides of the House uniting in support of a private member’s motion on democratization in Myanmar but instead ignominous parliamentary history was made as a result of RM80 million renovation scandal forcing shameful adjournment of meeting because of leaking and collapsing roof
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Friday): Glorious parliamentary history was to be made yesterday, with MPs from both sides of the House uniting in support of a private member’s motion on democratization in Myanmar but instead ignominous parliamentary history was made as a result of RM80 million renovation scandal forcing shameful adjournment of parliamentary meeting because of leaking and collapsing roof.
Yesterday was a “day of shame” for Parliament. Never before in the 46-year history of the Malaysian Parliament had parliamentary proceedings to be adjourned because of leaking and collapsing roof or any other form of substandard construction or human negligence.
The present Parliament Building was built in 1962 costing RM18 million. For 43 years, it stood proud and tall, to symbolize the pomp and pageantry of the external trappings of parliamentary democracy in Malaysia although its essence and substance are sorely lacking, awaiting meaningful democratization. This is why the Parliament square has for over a decade served as the site, with the imposing Parliament as an outstanding backdrop, for official welcome ceremonies for visiting dignitaries, whether heads of state or government, like yesterday morning when the Sultan of Brunei was accorded a state welcome by the Yang di Pertuan Agong, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, and inspected a guard-of-honour mounted by the First Battalion, Royal Malay Regiment.
After the premature, unceremonious and ignominous end of the parliamentary meeting yesterday because of leaking and collapsing roof in the chamber of the Dewan Rakyat, the august Parliament Building stands as a symbol of shame, despite the on-going RM80 million renovation. It will become a national embarrassment, the subject of snide remarks and sneers, unless urgent, effective and satisfactory steps are taken immediately to redeem Parliament’s credibility, honour and dignity.
Both the Parliamentary House Committee and the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee must meet urgently to investigate and make public why Parliament should suffer the ignominy of premature and unceremonious adjournment of yesdterday’s meeting because of leaking and collapsing roof – especially after a RM80 million renovation.
MPs will forfeit all right to hold the government to account, with Parliament as the highest forum in the land to demand full accountability for financial scandals, government negligence, abuse of power and corruption if Parliament cannot swiftly and satisfactorily account for the RM80 million parliamentary renovation scandal – the whys and wherefores of the leaking and collapsing roof of the Dewan Rakyat chamber and other defects, like the frequent power breakdowns particularly at the 18-storey tower block, whether they are the result of substandard workmanship and materials, poor supervision, negligence, abuse of power or downright corruption.
The “wash-out” of the parliamentary sitting yesterday was a triple “wash-out” – firstly, in distracting national attention from what the Prime Minister had described as a “historic occasion” in his announcement of the national biotechnology policy to become a global biotechnology player; secondly, overshadowing the two-day “World Ethics & Integrity Forum 2005” featuring former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and former Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Musa Hitam yesterday, with the opening by the Prime Minister today.
But the biggest and most serious casualty of the parliamentary “wash-out” was the history that would have been made by the Malaysian Parliament yesterday with MPs from both sides of the House uniting in support of a private member’s motion on democratization in Myanmar and opposition to Myanmar assuming the ASEAN Chair 2006 without significant progress in democratization.
Malaysian parliamentarians, who formed the all-party Malaysian parliamentary caucus on democracy in Myanmar last JMay, had chalked up success and momentum in the past six months in the campaign to get support from ASEAN parliamentarians to oppose Myanmar taking over the ASEAN Chair 2006 without meaningful progress in national reconciliation and democratization, particularly the release of Burmese Opposition Leader, Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners.
An ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) was established last November at the Kuala Lumpur Workshop on Democracy in Myanmar, with individual parliamentary caucus formed in different ASEAN countries – Indonesia in February, Thailand in March, Philippines in April and Singapore on June 2.
The Myanmese military junta had sought to put pressure on the Malaysian government by accusing it of violating the ASEAN principle of non-interference in supporting the move of Malaysian parliamentarians to mobilize ASEAN-wide parliamentary support to deny the 2006 ASEAN Chair to Myanmar because of lack of tangible and acceptable progress in democratisation and national reconciliation in Myanmar, resulting in the forced withdrawal of the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Nazri Aziz from the Malaysian parliamentary caucus on democracy in Myanmar.
The arm-twisting of the Malaysian government by the Myanmese military junta had also placed in peril the parliamentary motion of the Chairman of the Malaysian Parliamentary Caucus on Myanmar and AIPMC, Zaid Ibrahim (Barisan Nasional – Kota Bahru) to deny the ASEAN 2006 Chair to Myanmar as there was legitimate expectation that government would allocate time for its debate on the last day of the March-April parliamentary meeting or extend time beyond the 5.30 p.m. adjournment time.
Nazri explained however that with the change of scenario, with him having to withdraw as a member of the Malaysian parliamentary caucus on Myanmar, the government could not be seen to be giving support to the motion by extending parliamentary time to debate the Myanmar motion, which would be necessary as yesterday, the last sitting for the March/April meeting, had a total of 11 government business to be transacted – three bills and eight treasury motion, which would normally require extension of parliamentary time to complete all government business in Parliament.
Under the circumstances, the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers’ Club Chairman, Datuk Shahrir Samad and I reached agreement, with the support of MPs from both sides of the House without any involvement of any Minister or the government, to make time for debate and passage of the Myanmar motion by ensuring that all outstanding government business could be completed before the normal adjournment time. MPs from both sides of the House would economise in their debate on all the government business so that the Myanmar motion could come up for debate and passage before normal adjournment time.
This historic arrangement to create Malaysian parliamentary history so that MPs from both sides of the House, without involvement of the government, could demonstrate powerful Malaysian parliamentary desire for democratization and national reconciliation in Myanmar by giving overwhelming support to Zaid’s Myanmar motion was however defeated by the RM80 million parliament renovation scandal of the leaking and collapse roof, forcing premature, ignominous and unceremonial adjournment of the House.
Despite the leaking and collapsing roof, the Deputy Speaker, Datuk Lim Si Cheng, should not have summarily adjourned the Dewan Rakyat sine dine yesterday, without first discussing with the government and opposition as to whether Parliament could be adjourned to next week to complete the outstanding parliamentary business.
The Prime Minister should reconvene the Dewan Rakyat next week or hold a special one-day sitting to complete the outstanding parliamentary business. Alternatively, this could be held after the Dewan Negara meeting starting next Tuesday. One day of parliamentary sitting is all that is needed to complete the outstanding parliamentary business yesterday, including Zaid’s Myanmar motion.
Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman