By Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Mp for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in Parliament, on Thursday, Nov. 21, 1985:
Challege to Deputy Speaker, Dr. Abdul Hamid Pawanteh, to declare whether he is bound by the rules of natural justice when making decisions during the conduct of parliamentary proceedings
The Deputy Speaker, Dr. Abdul Hamid Pawanteh, has studiously avoided my charge that he had violated the rules of natural justice in rejecting my privilege motion in Parliament on Tuesday to censure the Mp FOR Pasir Puteh, Wan Najib Wan Mohmed, for making racist statements.
According to the Star and News Straits Times report, Dr. Abdul Hamid Pawanteh quoted various Standing Orders and even the Constitution to justify his rejection., His reasons for rejecting my privilege motion are not tenable at all. But even more serious, he had violated the rules of natural justice in rejecting my motion without giving me a chance to submit arguments why my privilege motion is in order and should be allowed.
I challenge the Deputy Speaker to declare whether he is bound by the rules of natural justice when making decisions on points of order during the conduct of parliamentary proceedings. He should know that violations of natural justice makes judicial and administrative decisions null and void!
The rules of natural justice is traditionally understood to constitute two limbs: one, that he who judges should entertain no bias; and secondly, before a decision is made, there should be a fair hearing for those whose rights are to be affected.
In my case, the Deputy Speaker refused to allow me to give my reasons as to why he should allow the privilege motion against Wan Najib to be debated, in accordance with the Standing Orders of the Dewan Rakyat.
After hearing my arguments why my motion is in order and should be presented to the House for debate, it is then up to the Deputy Speaker to exercise his powers of decision.
In this case, the Deputy Speaker had deprived my fundamental right to a fair hearing in breaching the rules of natural justice. His decision on Tuesday therefore is wrong on at least two grounds:
Firstly, for breaching the rules of natural justice in denying me4 the opportunity to present arguments why my motion should be allowed before the Deputy Speaker made his decision to reject my application for an immediate debate; and
Secondly, for misinterpreting the Standing Orders in rejecting my application for an immediate debate on the privilege motion against Wan Najib.
Barisan MPs an ‘over-pampered lot’
The Deputy Speaker relied on Standing Order 15(1) to justify his rejection of my privilege motion from being debated, when this Standing Order is completely inapplicable.
Standing Order 15(1) reads : ‘On every sitting day Government business shall have precedence over Private Members’ business.”
‘Government business’ refer specifically to Government Bills and Government motions, while ‘private Members’ business’ refer specifically to Private Members’ Bills and Private Members’ Motions’. But there are categories of parliamentary business which are neither ‘Government Business’ nor ‘Private Members’ Business’ which do not come under the regulation of Standing Order 15(1).
Examples are oath-taking by new Mps; question time; request for leave to adjourn the House on a matter of urgent, definite, public importance; as well as privilege motions.
Privilege motions are neither ‘Government Business’ nor ‘Private Members’ Business’, for they concern the privilege of the House, and concern the entire Parliament, transcending the two categories of business regulated by Standing Order 15(1).
The privilege motion against the DAP MP for Jelutong, Karpal Singh, on Nov. 24, 1984, is a good example. At that time, the House was debating the 1985 Budget estimates during committee stage, and the debate on the Ministry of Public Enterprises estimates had to give way to the privilege motion against Karpal Singh.
The Deputy Speaker explained that in Karpal Singh’s motion, ‘the Government had communicated to the House that it wanted the matter to be resolved’. This is a revelation, for this is the first time that I have learnt that the Government had directed Parliament to give priority to the privilege motion against Karpal Singh and have him suspended form the House.
But on what basis, on what Standing Order, did the Government direct Parliament to give priority to the privilege motion on Kapal Singh? The House was never informed on Nov. 22, 1984 about the government’s directive.
The Deputy Speaker had also quoted Standing Order 15(2), which reads: “ Government business shall be set down in such order as the Government think fit and communicate to the Setiausaha.’ As privilege motions is not a ‘Government business’, S,O.15(2) does not apply at all. Otherwise, we will have the ridiculous situation where there are two types of privilege motions. A Government privilege motion against the Opposition MP will always get immediate priority, while an Opposition privilege motion against a Barisan Nasional MP will never be debated. Is this parliamentary justice and fair play?
The Standing Order of the Dewan Rakyat cannot be so misinterpreted because of the Barisan Nasional majority as to become a gross injustice and a farce!
I am very surprised by another reason given by the Deputy Speaker, that the Standing Order were intended to facilitate the winning party to ‘govern effectively’. Is the Deputy Speaker suggesting that if the privilege motion against Wan Najib had been tabled (in the same way as the privilege motion against Karpal Singh was tabled on Nov. 22, 1984), the government would not be able to govern effectively? Another equally relevant question is under what Standing Order does the Deputy Speaker find the authority to act in this fashion?
In any event, the Barisan Nasional MPs are not serous about Parliamentary duties and responsibilities. For instance, The Dewan Rakyat was given only 45 minutes to debate the Defence Ministry’s 1986 estimates which amounted to $2,608 million. Could any parliament be more irresponsible, for such short shrift to the important defence portforlio and the huge public funds involved? I had wanted to speak on the Lumut Naval Base, the Skyhawak squadrons, the AWACs, and other important areas of defence, but there was no time. The Barisan MPs are an ‘over-pampered’ lot, who are not prepared to sit back in Parliament to have the sittings extended every day till 9 p.m or 10 p.m to discuss important issues of the nation. In fact, there is often no quorum even.
I will submit my motion challenging the Deputy Speaker’s decision to reject my motion of privilege against Wan Najib for violating the rules of natural justice and the Standing Orders tomorrow.
DAP calls for an Independent Inquiry and Report into the Baling Incident
While fully supporting police’s role and duty to uphold law and order, and to bring criminal elements to lbook, it is still open to question whether the Police could have chosen some other form of operation which could have avoided or minimised the loss of lives of both the Police personnel and civilians.
For the above reasons, the DAP would call for an independent inquiry conducted by Malaysians who would command the respect of all shades of opinion in the country, to report on the Baling Incident, its background, circumstances and to recommend how it could be avoided in future.
In making this call, I am not impugning the veracity of Datuk Musa’s Ministerial statement, but I believe that it would be a principle of good and responsible government to always appoint a panel of independent inquiry whenever police or the government itself is involved in incidents involving deaths, especially where members of the public are concerned.
Such an independent inquiry would reinforce and fortify public support in the Governement in its task to uphold the rule of law and to maintain public peace and order.
The DAP is firmly opposed to extremist activities or religious fanaticism which could destroy Malaysia’s multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious fabric.
In his Parliamentary statement, Datuk Musa said that it was the joint responsibility of all Malaysians, irrespective of their political allegiance, religion or racial origin, to maintain peace and harmony in Malaysia.
I believe all political parties, whether in Barisan Nasional or in the Opposition, cherish peace and harmony in Malaysia. For this reason, I suggest the formation of an all-party advisory committee to help the government to maintain social harmony and public order, not to act as policemen, but to help defuse situations of tension which if unattended to, would create law and order problems.