Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary- General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lirn Kit Siang, at the Official Opening of the Penang State DAP Convention 1983 in Penang on Sunday, 7.8.1933 at 10 a.m
Executive control over Parliament being tightened to the detriment of the principle of Par1iamentary supremacy
The recently- concluded two-week Parliamentary meeting shows the ever—tightening gontrol of the Executive over Parliament to the great detriment of the principle of Parliamentary supremacy.
In a parliamentary democracy, the Executive is supposed to be subordinate and answerable to Parliament, but the reverse in Malaysia is actually the case, with Parliament at the dictates of the Executive.
However, this unhealthy trend, where instead of being Master over the Executive, Parliament has become a subservient creature of the Executive. has developed beyond healthy levels to the extent that the whole principle of parliamentary government is being undermined,
For instance, in the recently—concluded Parliamentary meeting, oral questions which Ministers find embarrassing to answer are placed at the bottom of the list of the day concerned, so that they have no chare of being asked during the one- hour question time, and are therefore killed.
I have at least three roral questions killed in this manner, although they were submitted well before other MPs, they are embarrassing to certain Ministers. The first question is with regard to the Bumiputera Malaysia Finance scandal over its billion—dollar loans to three borrowers, Carrian Group, Eda Group and Kevin Hsu in Hong Kong, the allegations in international press about malpractices of Bank Bumiputera and BMF officials in approving the loans. This question has become more sensitive with the cold—blooded murder of Jalil Ibrahim, sent to Hong Kong by Bank Bumiputera to investigate into the BMF loans.
Another question is whether the Attorney—General would arrest and prosecute the Foreign Minister, Tan Sri Ghazalie Shafie, following the Bentong coroner’ s finding that he was directly negligent in the helicopter crash in Pahang in January 1982, killing Selangor Flying Club instructor and his ADC. The third question is whether the police investigations into the allegation of the Deputy Education Minister, Dr. Tan Tiong Hong, that he had been pushed into a drain by a DAP member during the Raub by-election in Kampong Sempalit had produced any finding.
Although all these three questions would be highly embarrassing to the Ministers or Deputy Minister concerned, it is the duty of the Executive to give Parliament, who represent the people of Malaysia, an accounting. For the Executive to avoid an accoutning by pushing these questions to the bottom of the question list each day is a sad parliamentary development.
To ensure that the Executive does not abuse its powers, the placement of Parliamentary questions each day should be made in accordance with clear criteria, as on a first—come—first—ask basis, or other established guidelines, which will give no room for the Executive to ‘kill’ embarrassing parliamentary questions.
Another serious development in the recently—concluded Parliament which undermines the effectiveness of Parliament, occurred when I found that although I spoke for almost one hour on the Constitution (Amendment)Bill 1983, my speech was completely blacked out in all the papers, as well as in the Radio and TV Parliamentary reports, as if I never spoke at all.
This is the first time in my 14 years’ of parliamentary experience where my speech in Parliament suffered total black—out, and constitutes by itself, an eloquent testimony of the direction parliamentary democracy in Malaysia is heading.
The recently—concluded Parliament has also left me with various impressions:
The irresponsible attitude of Barisan MPs, who are prepared to score petty political party points to the detriment of national interest. Thus the DAP MP for Bukit Bendera, Gooi Hock Seng, had tabled a motion go condemn the Soviet Union for its threats to subvert the sovereignty of Malaysia made by the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Kapitsa.
As UMNO Youth had organised country—wide rallies to condemn the Soviet Union for such blatant disrespect to Malaysia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, I would have thought that the Barisan Nasional MPs would welcome an opportunity for Par1iament to express its condemnation of such Soviet threats.
Instead, UMNO, MCA, Gerakan, SUPP and other Barisan MPs again conspired to drag out the debate on the Patents Bill for two days just to kill the motion to condemn the Russias. Many Barisan MPs in fact did not know what they were talking about on the Patents Bill, many confusing copyright with patent! But this did not matter, what mattered was to ‘sabotage’ the motion to condemn Soviet threat to Malaysian sovereignty.
UMNO, MCA, Gerakan, SUPP and other Barisan MPs must ask themselves whether they are serious in wanting to stand up firmly for Malaysia’s national interests against Soviet expansionism, or whether they are more interested in playing party games.
Although the DAP’s parliamentary representation had been sharply slashed, and Barisan leaders including the Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamed lose no opportunity to claim that the DAP has lost support of the people, the DAP’s presence in Parliament remain crucial in extracting from the Barisan leaders its policy positions. For instance, if not for the DAP’s oral questions, the people would not know that the Ministry of Culture, Youth end Sports had rejected outright, even without a Cabinet meeting, the Cultural Memorandum of the Malaysian Chinese/Congress in Penang in /Cultural March, which was endorsed by 15 Chinese national organisations and Tung/Chiau Chung, on the ground that the memorandum had opposed the 1971 National Cultural Congress principles on Malaysian culture.
If not for the DAP MPs, the people will remain in the dark on a whole range of questions in Malaysia.
The parliamentary performance of MCA Ministers are highly disgraceful, and cannot compare with their UMNO counterparts. For instance, none of the MCA Ministers during the two—week Parliamentary meeting dare to answer oral questions directed to his Ministry. In all cases of MCA Ministries, whether Datuk Dr. Neo Yee Pan, Datuk Mak Hon Kam, Datuk Chong Hong Nyan or Datuk Chin Hong Ngian, the MCA Ministers corspicuous1y absented themselves during question time, and left the answering to the Deputy Ministers. This is not the case with UMNO Ministers, who in most cases stand up in Parliament to answer questions directed to their Ministry, including the Prime Minister Deputy grime Minister. I do not know how the MCA Ministers can expect to command the respect of their Deity Ministers or civil servants when they are afraid to field oral questions directed to their Ministries.
The disruptive attitude of Barisan MPs in sabotaging Parliamentary proceedings every day by engineering a ‘no quorum’ situation to deny DAP MPs from raising adjournment speeches on pressing problems of the people and country. It is very sad that these Barisan MPs feel very proud about these ‘disruptive’ tactices when they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for lacking in basic sense of responsibility as a Member of Parliaments
Another shocking incident during the two—week Parliament was the unashamed appeal of the MCA, through its MP for Lumut, Ng Cheng Kuai, to draw electoral constituencies in such a way that there would be no parliamentary constituency where there would be more than 60 per cent electorate of Malaysian Chinese voters. The MCA claims to be the party which is the sole legitimate champion of the Malaysian Chinese, yet it is afraid of facing Malaysian Chinese voters, to the extent that it is asking the Elections Commission to ensure that no constituency would have more than 60% Chinese electorate. No other speech or action, apart from Datuk Neo Yee Pan’s fear of having a Seremban by—election, exposes the empty claim of the to having made a great political breakthrough in the 1982 general elections arid therefore entitled to political’ represent the Malaysian Chinese
Although Ng Cheng Kuai also suggested that no constituency should have more than 60 per cent Malay electorate, he knows that this is impossible in states like Kelatan Trengganu, Kedah, Perlis, and even in Pahang and Johore. But it is perfectly possible to delineate constituencies to ensure that there is not more than 60 per cent Chinese electorate, and ensuring that the MCA candidates can always get elected on the UMNO’s basic votes!
Great political, economic, educational arid cultural changes are afoot in Malaysia in the 1980s. Malaysians must be aware of the underlying forces at work, so as to be able to participate in shaping the future of Malaysia. Politics will play a commanding role in determing the future shape of things to come, whether politically, economically, educationally and culturally, and this is why the DAP must recover fast from the great setbacks of the April 1982 general elections to ensure that Malaysia’s future belongs to all Malaysians of all races, and not merely to any one race, or group or class of people!