DAP welcomes the Prime Minister’s Directive to Ministers Deputy Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries and Barisan MPs on their parliamentary duties to attend Dewan Rakyat sittings

by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, Oct. 24, 1985:

DAP welcomes the Prime Minister’s Directive to Ministers Deputy Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries and Barisan MPs on their parliamentary duties to attend Dewan Rakyat sittings

I welcome the directive issued by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, to all Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries to attend all sittings of Dewan Rakyat, and that Ministers are to be present when matters pertaining to their Ministers are being discussed, and that they should not leave Kuala Lumpur when the House is sitting, unless absolutely necessary.

I hope that the Prime Minister’s new directive would ensure greater ‘Parliamentary discipline’ on the part of the Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, and stop their habit of ‘playing truant’ from their parliamentary duties.

I am glad that my strictures against the irresponsibility of Minister and Deputy Ministers during the debate on the PAC Report and the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, and my calling on the Prime Minister to take stern action, had been heeded.

I only hope that the latest directive by the Prime Minister would not be forgotten after some time, as had happened with previous directives, and this matter had again to be brought up in future.

It is indeed a great shame if with fourth-fifth Parliamentary majority, the Barisan Nasional MPs could not ensure that there is always a quorum in the Dewan Rakyat, and I hope that the incident in 1983 when the Dewan Rakyat had to be adjourned half-way for lack of a quorum would never happen again during the life of this Parliament.

But it is not enough for Ministers to be present, and somewhere in the Parliamentary precincts. Ministers must themselves answer parliamentary questions or table Bills under their Ministry, unless for special reasons, they delegate them to Deputy Minister or Parliamentary Secretary.

Although Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries have the right to represent Ministers in the Dewan Rakyat to answer questions or table motions or Bills, MPs must question the ‘seriousness’ and the ‘sense of responsibility’ of every Minister who asks his Deputy Minister or Parliamentary Secretary to act for him, where he is in the House.

While Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries have the legal tight to represent their Ministers, MPs have the parliamentary and moral right to question the Minister concerned why he could not come to Parliament to answer questions or move motions directly under his responsibility.

With the Prime Minister’s Directive, there should be a general effort to restore to Parliament its constitutional status as the highest legislative and deliberative chamber in the country, and not a Chamber run by Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries!

It was because of the failure of Ministers to take their parliamentary duties seriously that two parliamentary episodes occurred in four days of parliamentary sitting, undermining the public confidence, credibility and standing of Parliament.

The first was the improper adjournment of Parliament last Wednesday, resulting in the cancellation of last Thursday and Friday’s parliamentary sittings. The Deputy Speaker, Dr. Hamid Pawanteh, had made a ruling, and I had given notice to the Speaker under Standing Order 43 to move a substantive motion to review Dr. Hamid Pawanteh’s ruling and to declare his ruling wrong and improper, and not to be used as a precedent in the Dewan Rakyat. I would therefore wait for the debate on the substantive motion for further comments.

Datuk Lee Boon Peng is the best person to move a motion of rescission to undo Parliament’s damage in rejecting the PAC Report on the 1977 Federal Government Accounts.

The second episode was the Dewan Rakyat’s rejection of the Fifth Parliamentary Accounts Committee’s Report on the 1997 Federal Government Accounts through the rejection of my motion on Monday proposing the acceptance of the Report.

The only way to undo the damage is for a motion of rescission to declare the Dewan Rakyat’s acceptance of the Fifth PAC’s Report on the 1977 Accounts.

The best person to move such a motion of rescission would be the MP for Mantin, Datuk Lee Boon Peng, who was the Chairman of the Fifth PAC.

This is because Datuk Lee had committed ‘parliamentary filicide’ of rejecting his own PAC report – making history as the only PAC Chairman in Commonwealth Parliament to vote against his won PAC Report. Datuk Lee is qualified to enter the Guinness Book of Records.

(Note: ‘Patricide’ is killing the father; “Matricide’ is killing the mother; and ‘Filicide’ is killing the son or daughter. In this case, the PAC report is the ‘son’ or ‘offspring’ of Datuk Lee Boon Peng as the Chairman of the Fifth PAC, which he had ‘killed’ in voting for its rejection.)

To show that there is no party line on this question, the DAP is prepared to have one of its MPs to second such a motion of rescission, to bring the PAC Report on the 1977 Accounts ‘back to legal life’.

Call on Government to issue Green Paper on propose legislation or draft Bills for public to discuss and give views well before any First Reading

I also welcome the Cabinet decision yesterday on better co-ordination in the printing and distribution of Bills to MPs, so that last week breakdown of parliamentary proceeding would not recur.

But the nub of the question is not so much the administration problem of printing and distribution, as the important principle of giving MPs and the public time to study proposed legislation before they become law.

For this purpose, I would call on the Prime Minister to introduce the Green Paper, which are issued by the government embodying its views on proposed legislations or draft Bills to invite public study and views, well before any First Reading in Dewan Rakyat. The present practive of the Government shrouding the formulation stage of proposed bills in great secrecy is completely incompatible with a open and democratic society, and should be replaced by a more democratic process.