MCA Ministers and Members of Parliament should undergo an elementary course in Parliamentary principles and practices

Speech by DAP Secretary General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka at the official opening of Tanjung Rambutan DAP Branch on 2nd February, 1974 at 4.30 p.m.

1. MCA Ministers and Members of Parliament should undergo an elementary course in Parliamentary principles and practices

On Tuesday, during the debate on the Mid-Term Review of the Second Malaysia Plan in Dewan Negara, Senator Yeap Kheng Yam, (MCA – Perak), said he regretted that I had moved a motion in the Dewan Rakyat to cut the salary of the Minister of Health, Tan Sri Lee Siok Yew by $100/- over the 107 deaths at the Malacca General Hospital during the period from July – August, 1973.

Senator Yeap Kheng Yam said that it was unfair to blame the Minister for the deaths, and that is was the hospital staff who should be blamed and disciplined. He suggested to the Senate that the Minister’s salary should be increased by $100/- from February 1974 to show appreciation to the Minister’s services.

Senator Yeap Kheng Yam is one of the MCA political veterans who has been a Member of Parliament and State Assemblyman for many years.

But his speech has confirmed my view that the majority of MCA Ministers and Members of Parliament, regardless of their many years in Parliament, are ignorant of the elementary Parliamentary principles and practices.

Senator Yeap Kheng Yam, together with the other MCA Minister and Members of Parliament, have probably not heard of the Parliamentary principle of Ministerial responsibility.

The responsibilities of a Minister are both collective and individual. On policy matters, the Ministers are collectively responsible to Parliament and a Minister who strongly disagrees with any government policy, whether it is on education, economics or culture, must resign his Ministerial post.

Apart from the collective Ministerial responsibilities, a Minister has individual Ministerial responsibilities to Parliament for the performance of his official duties.

A Minister must accept responsibility for the actions of the civil servants in his department and must take the constitutional consequences of what has been done either by himself in his department, unless his civil servants has done something reprehensible which he forbade and which he publicly dissociates himself and take disciplinary actions against them, such as dismissals.

Tan Sri Lee Siok Yew, under the Parliamentary principle of individual Ministerial responsibilities, is personally accountable for the Malacca Hospital deaths because of the autoclave poisoning caused by hospital maladministration and negligence.

Thus, in accordance with time-honoured Parliamentary practice, Tan Sri Lee Siok Yew has two honourable ways out. He could either publicly discipline and dismiss the Hospital officers responsible for the Malacca Hospital deaths and pay compensation to the bereaved families or he should resign from his post as Minister of Health.

But in Malaysia, our Minister of Health chose none of the two honourable alternatives. In fact, when my motion to cut his salary by $100/- was put to a vote in a division, he personally voted against the motion, when the more honourable thing to do would have been to abstain as it involved a question of his own Ministerial competence.

Under such circumstances, it is no surprise to see Senator Yeap Kheng Yam so publicly exhibiting his ignorance of the elementary Parliamentary principles.

After all, the former Minister for New Villages, Senator Dr. Lim Kheng Yaik, when he was still in the MCA had the audacity to say in the Dewan Rakyat that he as a Minister, was not responsible to Parliament – ca causing untold embarrassment to the Prime Minister and all the Alliance Ministers.

But Senator Yeap Kheng Yam must take the bouquet of Parliamentary ignorance when he suggested to the Senate a $100/- increase to Tan Sri Lee’s salary.

It is the Parliamentary tradition that no Member of Parliament can or should propose an increase in salary or vote for any service.

He can propose a cut but no a raise.

I seriously suggest that all MCA Minister and Member of Parliament should undergo an elementary course in Parliamentary principle and practices so that they can stop making bigger fools of themselves.

2. DAP Calls for the Immediate Public Release of the Report into the Malacca Hospital Deaths

Senator Yeap Kheng Yam can afford to take an indifferent attitude about the Malacca Hospital Deaths. He would not be so smooth talking if one of his children or close relative had been a victim in the Malacca Hospital autoclave poisoning; and died when undergoing simple routine operations like hernia or caesarian births.

I want to ask Senator Yeap Kheng Yam and the entire MCA whether they sympathise with the families who have lost their loved ones because of the maladministration and negligence of the Malacca Hospital. I challenge them to declare their stand.

If they sympathise with the unnecessary deaths, then they should get Tan Sri Lee Siok Yew to completely overhaul the entire Malacca Hospital administration, discipline and dismiss those responsible and pay compensation to the deceased families.

Although Tan Sri Lee Siok Yew must accept individual Ministerial responsibility for the Malacca Hospital deaths, I hope the motion to cut his salary by $100/- not on the grounds that he caused the 107 deaths, but that when I publicly brought the death to light, he, as Minister, tried to hush and cover it up, and mislead me, the public and his Cabinet colleagues about the true enormity of the deaths.

Even now, the minister has refused to release the report of the committee which he set up to investigate into the 12 of the 107 deaths. What has Tan Sri Lee Siok Yew to hide?

I call on Tan Sri Lee to immediately release the findings of the Enquiry Committee to the public and to stop protesting maladministration and negligence.