— Liew Chin Tong
Malay Mail Online
Thursday October 22, 2015
OCTOBER 22 — Over the course of the last half-century, numerous attempts by the ruling elite to silence Lim Kit Siang had failed. The latest – suspending him from Parliament for half a year – will not silence Kit Siang’s voice for the nation.
On the contrary, 50 years after he started as a political novice with a yet-to-be-registered party then – the Democratic Action Party – Kit Siang is not done yet. The powers-that-be still want to silence him because they know many Malaysians listen to Kit Siang. The people trust Kit Siang more than they do Barisan Nasional.
So, what did Kit Siang do at the Parliament this week? He was merely doing his duty as a Member of Parliament, i.e., to voice his opinions and to state facts. He was commenting on Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin’s role in preventing the Public Accounts Committee to hold its meetings after chairperson Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed was elevated to the government’s frontbench.
The PAC was at the height of investigating the 1MDB scandal with the troubled company’s past and present CEOs were about to appear before the Committee. The hearings never took place.
The series of moves by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak – sacking of Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail and Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, and a strategic cabinet reshuffle – were aimed at averting a crisis that could possibly lead to Najib being charged in court.
Four Barisan Nasional MPs who sat on the PAC were promoted to the front bench in an attempt to stall the investigations into the 1MDB scandal. They are Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed, Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican, Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin and Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau.
The Committee has still a Deputy Chairman and nine MPs who could still form the quorum for the Committee to carry on its investigation. At that critical juncture, Tan Sri Pandikar prevented the PAC from meeting and carrying out its duties.
Nur Jazlan could have resisted the offer and continue to lead the PAC. Speaker Pandikar could have ruled in favour of those who want to see the Parliament playing its true check-and-balance role by not preventing the PAC to function.
Jazlan and Pandikar lack a sense of history. They could have changed the course of history for our nation. They could have sided with the rakyat, and not with scandal-ridden Najib. They missed their date with history.
Whereas Kit Siang has proven his worth. He is but one of many casualties of the 1MDB scandal; from Gani to Muhyiddin, to Tony Pua, MACC officers, former Special Branch Deputy Director, and many more.
The veteran DAP leader has said, “What I said when I sought clarification from the MP for Sepang, Mohamed Hanipa bin Maidin who was speaking on the debate on the appointment of the Chairman of Public Accounts Committee was whether he agreed that the Speaker has no powers under the Standing Orders to stop the Public Accounts Committee, in the absence of a PAC Chairman, from continuing with its 1MDB investigations and which was therefore an abuse of power.”
Speaker Pandikar’s usual refrain is that MPs can move a motion against his decision “which is ultimate”. In a Westminster Parliamentary setting in which the Government has majority, the Opposition would not have the number to censure the Speaker.
Even if Kit Siang were to be subjected to this ordeal, he should be given due process through a Committee of Privileges hearing. DAP Legal Bureau Chief Gobind Singh explained to Parliament that it is clear that in the case of alleged contempt of Parliament such as the case of Kit Siang, the Speaker cannot bypass the process of an inquiry by a committee.
Standing Order 80A ”Notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order 80 relating to the Committee of Privileges, in any case where it appears to the House that there has been the commission, whether by a member or by any other person, of any acts, matters or things as are made punishable as contempt under the Houses of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Ordinance 1952, the House may appoint a committee to summarily enquire into such a case and appropriate action in accordance with the said Ordinance.”
I told Parliament that the Speaker should reverse terrible precedents set by this Parliament previously that a member could be “summarily executed” through the brute force of Government majority in the form of a motion and a vote in the House.
Lest we forget, Opposition MPs such as Fong Po Kuan in the year 2000, Karpal Singh (2004), Gobind Singh (2010), Anwar Ibrahim (2010) and N. Surendran (2013) were suspended in this manner.
In the more democratic Westminster parliaments, suspensions are generally meted out for several days to maintain the order of the House if it is relating to the conduct of MPs in the House. In the British parliament, suspensions are also used against MPs who were involved in financial improprieties, not for exercising free speech without fear or favour.
In Malaysia, suspension is just a punitive tool to silence members of the Opposition. But Kit Siang will not be cowed. He told Parliament that his sacrifice would not be meaningless because it would make the people more aware of the embarrassing 1MDB scandal.
Fifty years in politics, he is still the man the powers-that-be feared and still the ultimate symbol of defiance and anti-establishment. Barred from entering Parliament for half a year, Kit Siang is on a new journey to meet Malaysians of all walks of life.
Plans are underway to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of DAP on 18th March 2016, as well as the 50th Anniversary of Kit Siang’s entry into politics on 1st December 2015, and his 75th birthday on 20th February 2016.
We shall not be moved. We shall remember the words of Thomas Paine, an 18th century philosopher activist, “the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph”.
* Liew Chin Tong is DAP National Political Education Director and MP for Kluang.