Increase for MPs and Ministers excessively steep, and not accompanied by increase in effectiveness and efficiency for MPs

(Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday, 18th June 1980 on the Members of Parliament (Remuneration) Bill 1980)

Last month, the Government announced salary increases for the 750,000 government employees, which would add an additional salary bill of some $600 million. The salary increases for government employees was so unfavourably received because of the disproportionately big increases for those in the upper and top government grades as compared to those, in very much bigger numbers, in the middle and lower grades.

I understand that the increases for government employees range from 14 to 28%, with those in the top scales getting the biggest jumps.

Today, we are to revise the remuneration for Members of Parliament, Ministers, etc.

Before I proceed further in this debate, as provided under the Standing Orders, I want to declare my pecuniary interest in this Bill. In fact, all Members of Parliament have a pecuniary interest in this Bill.

Secondly, I agree that there is a case for upward revision. of MP’s remuneration. Thirdly, being human beings, everyone will be pleased to have more money and the sky is the limit.

However, as MPs, the elected representatives of the people, we have to set an example to the rakyat, and there is no doubt that although MPs’ remuneration should be increased in keeping with inflationary times, the present proposed increase by 100% excessively steep.

Can the Government explain why government employees get 14 to 28% increase, while Members of Parliament and Ministers are voting for themselves 100% increase. There must be a rational basis for such an increase, and I hope the Government can provide for a rational.

The first in a series of articles in theSunday Mail on June 8 asked a pertinent question, which we should ponder when we debate this Bill:

“The question is, would increased monetary benefits necessarily bring about a better performance from the current batch of MPs, especially in areas where they have never really even begun functioning, like being opinion makers or being effective legislators who would rise above, what cynic s call, the level of being a mere choir that only voices out approval?”

The review of MPs’ remuneration should be part of an overall review of MPs’ and function in Parliament, as to how to make them more effective and efficient in the discharge of their multiple duties.

It was precisely to ensure that MPs could be more effective and efficient in their Parliamentary duties that yesterday I proposed the establishment of a Speaker’s Conference on Parliamentary Reforms, but my motion was not only defeated, there was a complete absence of intelligent discussion on the issues involved. I had the distinct feeling that I was completely wasting my own time in raising in Parliament issues which were clearly beyond the depths of large numbers of MPs.

I had asked just now, what is the rational for such a huge 100% increase in the remuneration for MPs and Ministers.

Increase in allowance would not take MPs more efficient and effective in Parliament. There must be reforms in procedures and practices. I do not wish to repeat what I said yesterday. But what is urgently needed is to review what facilities are available to MPs to take part intelligently in debates on bills or national issues, for at present, there is a complete absence of facilities in providing MPs with the necessary information or research services. Money spent or providing such facilities and back-up parliamentary services would benefit serious MPs then just merely increasing their allowances.

Yesterday’s New Straits Times carried a report that the Deputy Director General of the NBI, Datuk Aziz bin Ahmad, “lashed out at heads of departments, MPs and State Assemblymen and others in authority who abused their powers.”

Datuk Abdul Aziz was reported to have said:”There are some who use their position and influence to bargain for commissions when making approvals.”

Datuk Abdul Aziz has cast a serious reflection on this House, and he should be summoned to appear before Parliament to name the MPs who are guilty of such corrupt practices so that other MPs with clean records will not be tarnished by the same brush. This will also enable Parliament to take action against such erring MPs.

However, this incident raises the question, whether the Government’s proposal to raise the remuneration of MPs by 100% is aimed at ensuring that MPs are honest, incorrupt, and do not use their position to make money and accumulate fortune as mentioned by the Deputy Director of NBI.

Clearly, the mere doubling of remuneration of MPs would not stop MPs who peddle their influence to make money and get government licences, permits or other privileges from turning over to a new leaf. In fact, the mere doubling of remuneration may have the opposite effect of increasing the appetites of such MPs to utilize their parliamentary positions to build up a personal fortune.

In return for doubling remuneration of the MPs’ and Ministers, is the Government prepared to introduce legislation to require all Ministers and MPs to public declare their assets, to demonstrate to the people that they are dedicated to the service of the people, and not to their own personal fortunes?

I call on the Prime Minister to give this serious thought, and introduce legislation requiring public and annual declaration of assets by every Minister and MP.

In the House of Commons, Members of Parliament are required to furnish to Parliament his pecuniary, grouped into nine specific classes:

(1) remunerated directorships of companies, public or private;
(2) remunerated employments or offices;
(3) remunerated trades, professions or vocations;
(4) the names of clients when the interests referred to above include personal services by the Member which arise out of or are related in any manner to his membership of the House;
(5) financial sponsorship (a) as a Parliamentary candidate where to the knowledge of the Member the sponsorship in any case exceeds 25 per cent of the candidate’s election expenses, or (b) as a Member or any material benefit or advantage direct or indirect;
(6) overseas visits relating to or arising out of membership of the House where the cost of any such visit has not been wholly borne by the Member or by public funds;
(7) any payments or any material benefits or advantages received from or on behalf of foreign Governments, organizations or persons;
(8) land and property of substantial value or from which a substantial income is derived;
(9) the names of companies or other bodies in which the Member has, to his knowledge, wither himself or with or on behalf of his spouse or infant children, a beneficial interest in shareholdings of of a nominal value greater than one-hundredth of the issued share capital.
We need not be slavishly imitative of Westminster practices, but this is one practice which we can, with benefit, adopt, if we want our MPs to be seen and held in high regard by Members of the public with regard to their integrity and probity.

As the increased allowances are so excessively steep, out of keeping with increases for government employees, and in view of the failure to make provisions to ensure that MPs are not only effective and efficient in parliamentary duties, but are dedicated, incorrupt and held in high regard by the public as to their personal integrity, the DAP cannot support this Bill.