I was utterly shocked when I read of the comments from the Speaker, Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia yesterday that former cabinet ministers may have broken their oath of Cabinet secrecy when debating the 2017 Budget in Parliament, referring in particular to former Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, former Rural and Regional Development Minister, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal and the former Second Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Husni Hadzlah.
Pandikar told a press conference in Parliament yesterday that when he “heard the other day….that the Cabinet’s decision had not been carried out”, it was “(secret) Cabinet information”.
Pandikar said in his experience of being a former minister himself, cabinet members had to take an oath of secrecy.
He said: “We can’t tell (secrets) to anyone. You can’t whisper it to your wife at night.”
He said he knew a lot of secrets himself, but would not divulge them as those who break their oaths cast doubt on their own integrity and conduct.
I do not know what to make of Pandikar’s comments because they undermined public perception and image of the Speaker’s integrity and independence from the Executive when he publicly suggested that the three former Cabinet Ministers had broken their oath of Cabinet secrecy in their speeches in Parliament.
Is Pandikar subtly suggesting to the Executive and in particular the Attorney-General and the Inspector-General of Police to initiate actions against Muhyiddin, Shafie and Husni under the Official Secrets Act or other laws of the land for their alleged breach of their oath of Cabinet secrecy in their speeches during the debate on the 2017 Budget?
Is Pandikar not aware of the important doctrine of the separation of powers of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary, and his special responsibility as the Speaker of Parliament to jealously safeguard the independence and integrity of Parliament from any usurpation or encroachment by the Executive?
Where in the world do we have a Parliament Speaker as good as suggesting to the Executive to charge MPs who are former Cabinet Ministers for their speeches in Parliament for breach of Cabinet secrecy?
Muhyiddin in his speech highlighted how the cabinet was not consulted on the formation of 1MDB, and was kept in the dark about its finances until the scandal broke out.
Is this a State secret when everybody concerned about the 1MDB scandal would have known about it?
Husni, meanwhile, questioned why 1MDB was formed, and asked how its scandals would affect Malaysia’s image.
Is this such a crime that the Speaker should suggest action by the Executive?
These are only Pandikar’s personal opinions that Muhyiddin, Shafie and Husni had violated their oath of Cabinet secrecy, but Pandikar should know that although he holds the elevated office of Speaker, he is not a judge in a court of law.
In any event, his view that Muhyiddin, Shafie and Husni had violated their oath of Cabinet secrecy is open to challenge, as I myself cannot see where Muhyiddin, Shafie and Husni had violated their oath of Cabinet secrecy.
Furthermore, as MPs, the three former Ministers are protected by parliamentary privilege for what they say in Parliament except in the rare occasion of violating the ban on “sensitive” issues under the Sedition Act consequent on an amendment to the Constitution which would be powerful shields to defend them from criminal charges that might be preferred against them by a government which had lost its democratic principles and moral compass of being able to distinguish right from wrong or what should be the proper order of national priorities.
It is sad and shocking that Pandikar seems to have turned the role of Speaker upside down, as instead of protecting Members of Parliament from any encroachments from the Executive, he seems to be siding with the Executive against Members of Parliament even to the extent of suggesting Executive actions against Members of Parliament.