Some three weeks ago, the Malay Rulers issued an unprecedented statement urging the government to complete the 1MDB investigations “as soon as possible” and to take “the appropriate stern action” against all found to be implicated.
Such crisis of confidence, among other things, have caused “the plunge in the value of the Malaysian Ringgit, impacting the country’s financial market and economic climate negatively and at the same time adversely affecting the world’s view of Malaysia” – and if not “wisely handled”, could “jeopardize the country’s economy and the livelihood of the people”.
The Malay Rulers wanted the findings of the investigations to be reported “comprehensively and in a transparent manner” so that the people will be convinced of the government’s sincerity not to conceal “facts and truth”, as such failure to give “convincing clarifications and answers…is feared to have resulted in a crisis of confidence”.
Although the language is somewhat convoluted, it is the result of trying to diplomatically convey the messages (i) that the Malay Rulers were very concerned at the worsening crisis of confidence caused by the two mega scandals in the nation’s history, the RM50 billion 1MDB and RM2.6 billion “donation” in Najib’s personal banking accounts, which had brought together a conjunction of political, economic, good governance and nation-building crises which threaten to produce the first “perfect storm” to hit Malaysia for six decades; and (ii) that the government had not conducted itself in a frank and transparent matter it should have done in these two mega-scandals.
What has the Najib government done in the 24 days since the Oct. 6 statement of the Malay Rulers, or in the past fortnight of parliamentary meetings, to address the concern of Malay Rulers and Malaysian citizenry that IMBD investigations be completed “as soon as possible”?
In fact, if the Najib government had taken the Malay Rulers’ statement of concern of Oct 6 seriously, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Azalina Othman Said would not have committed the parliamentary faux pax in trying to set the bad, undesirable and unacceptable parliamentary precedent in the name of the Prime Minister of wanting to choose the date to answer questions about the 1MDB and the RM2.6 billion “donation” scandals when asked on the first day of Parliament on Oct. 19.
On October 19, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Azalina in written replies to Members of Parliament including DAP MP for Bagan Lim Guan Eng and the DAP MP for Segambut Lim Lip Eng, said the government will answer questions about the RM1MDB and RM2.6 billion “donation” scandals received by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and other related queries during the current sitting of Parliament but the exact date would be determined later.
This is the first time since I entered Parliament 46 years ago in 1969 to have come such across such a devious way by the Ministerial front-bench to evade and avoid the principles of parliamentary scrutiny and Executive accountability.
All the other previous five Prime Ministers, from Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun Hussein, Tun Mahathir and Tun Abdullah never had to resort to such parliamentary subterfuge.
Why is Najib setting such low standards of Executive responsibility to Parliament.
If this bad, undesirable and unacceptable precedent of allowing the Prime Minister to choose the date when he wants to give answers to 1MDB or RM2.6 billion “donation” scandals in the current meeting of Parliament is allowed to be established unchallenged, then all the other Ministers will gladly follow the precedent, postponing answer to embarrassing or difficult questions until a date “to be determined later” – making total mockery of the principle of parliamentary control of the Executive and the doctrine of the separation of powers.
A reform-minded Speaker would not have allowed Azalina to get away with such parliamentary subterfuge, which undermines Parliament’s role in the system of checks-and-balances essential in Malaysia’s parliamentary democracy.
However, the Speaker was more obsessed with seeing “insult” to him where it did not exist, and used the UMNO/Barisan Nasional mindless majority to suspend me from Parliament for six months for pointing out that he had no powers as Speaker to block the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) from continuing investigations into the 1MDB scandal for three months despite the elevation of PAC Chairman and three other members as Minister and Deputy Ministers.
It is indeed supreme irony. The Malay Rulers were concerned about the pace of 1MDB investigations and wanted “appropriate stern action” to be taken against those implicated.
What happened? I got suspended from Parliament for six months for pointing out that the Speaker had no powers to delay the PAC investigations into the 1MDB scandal for three months!
Azalina has given a pathetic reply, denying that the Najib government was trying to “dodge” the 1MDB and RM2.6 billion “donation” scandals in the current meeting of Parliament.
“The government is not trying to avoid in giving an answer but has decided to answer in one go to all verbal and written questions on the same matter.
“The government will answer in one go in this parliament session itself.
“The government’s decision does not contravene any parliamentary rules.”
Azalina is doing her previous stint in Parliament, both as a Minister and as an ordinary backbencher, no service for she should know from her parliamentary experience that what she had done on Monday evading parliamentary answers had never been done by any other Minister in Parliament since 1959.
It is already the common practice for Ministers to answer in one go parliamentary questions on the same subject-matter, but not at the date of the Minister’s own choosing as the answer must be given on the dater an MP had put own a question.
Surely, Azalina’s prevous stint as Minister and MP cannot be so unproductive as not to know that although it had become the common practice for Ministers to answer questions on the same subject-matter “in one go”, the Minister could not choose the date he or she wanted to answer, but must answer the first question on the subject matter when it came up in Parliament.
Azalina claimed that she had not broken any parliamentary rule in trying to establish a new-fangled parliamentary practice to allow the Prime Minister or Minister to answer all questions on the same subject matter on a date of his or her choice.
Can Azalina point out what parliamentary rule allow such avoidance of the principle of parliamentary control of the Executive by a Minister?
There has been talk of parliamentary reform to introduce a Prime Minister’s Question Time where the Prime Minister must be in the House to answer questions – which is commonplace in other Parliament but a rarity in Malaysia.
In fact, we are already establishing a new-fangled parliamentary practice where Ministers in the House do not have to answer questions but leave it to their Deputies – which is unheard of in other Parliaments.
If Azalina’s new-fangled theory is allowed to become parliamentary practice in Malaysia, may be we should introduce Last Day for Ministers’ Replies, where Ministers can choose to give their written answers on the last day of a parliamentary meeting (say on Dec. 3 of the current 25-day budget meeting which started on Oct. 19), which would prevent MPs from pursing the subject-matter if unsatisfied with the answers as Parliamentary meeting would have ended.
Is this the “parliamentary reform” that Azalina is trying to introduce in the Malaysian Parliament?
I call on the Prime Minister Datuk Najib Razak to set an example for his Cabinet and Government to show full seriousness to the Oct. 6 statement by the Malay Rulers about their concern about the multifarious adverse consequences of the two mega scandals in the country, by appearing in Parliament to answer all the questions on 1MDB and the RM2.6 billion “donation” scandals which Azalina had avoided in the first two weeks of Parliament, as well as to give a proper government response to the Malay Rulers’ Statement of Oct. 6.