Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on Friday, 6th December 1985 on the Dangerous Drugs (Special Prevention Measures Act) Amendment Bill 1985
Call on the Government not to refer to the Yang di Pertuan Agong when Executive or Ministerial powers are involved, so that critics of Ministerial abuse of power would not be charge for or accused of sedition
Barisan Nasional MPs , although they have a fourth-fifth majority in Parliament- well in excess of the traditional two-third majority- are clearly not interested or bothered about the various important bills before the House today. They regard today’s parliamentary sitting as their last day in Parliament, not knowing whether they would be returning again in the next meeting, as they expect general elections to be held soon.
Regardless of whether general elections is around the corner or not, they should discharge their parliamentary duties to give the various Bills before the House the attention they deserve.
As my colleague, Sdr. Gooi Hock Seng, DAP MP for Bukit Bendera, had just spoken on the provisions of the Bill, I want to confine myself to a few important issues.
Firstly, the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures Act) 1985 was the product of the hearing and recommendations of the Select Committee set up by Parliament to consider the proposed legislation. It is only right that any amendment to the principal Act, by the very same Parliament, should first be referred to the Select Committee before bringing them to the House.
I remember that early this year, the Deputy Home Affairs Minister, Datuk Sheikh Radzi Ahmad, even publicly suggested that Select Committee should be set up for major pieces of legislation, but he seemed to have forgotten his own suggestion which had won him considerable praise from all quarters at the time. This is probably why Datuk Radzi is not introducing this amendment Bill- though he introduced the parent Bill in Parliament earlier this year, and the job given to the Education Minister, Datuk Abdullah Badaiwi. Datuk Radzi must have felt ashamed of himself.
At the beginning of the present parliamentary meeting, when the parliamentary scandal of the improper cancellation of two parliamentary sittings occurred because of the lack of government ills, the Land and Regional Development, Datuk Adim Adam, suggested that in the future, there should be at least two weeks’ lapse between the first reading and the debate of any bill for second reading.
I do not know how Barisan Ministers could forget their public statements so easily and so fast, for in this case of the Amendment Bill to the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures Act), Parliament is given two days between its first reading on Wednesday and debate today on Friday.
The Ministry of Home Affair have no excuse for not be able to give more time for MPs to study the amendment bill, or the reference of amendment bill to the Select Committee in time for debate in this parliamentary meeting itself.
This is because the question of the illegality of the Minister’s directive extending a detention order under the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures)Act did not crop up last week or last month, but many months back, when a detainee successfully got a habeas corpus order for his release with a High Court judge pronouncing that such extension of detention order by the Minister Of Home Affair was unlawful, null and void.
The present Bill is another case of the government coming to Parliament to legalise its unlawful and illegal actions. It happened in the case of the Petronas take-over of Bank Bumiputra and the $2.5 billion Bumiputra Malaysia Finance bad loans, when it retrospectively legalised the unlawful action, and is now again offending a cardinal principle of the Rule of Law against retrospective legislation.
There have been many cases where the government has refused to take cognisance of the problems of the people to take remedial legislative action to avoid public hardships. A good case is the Setia Timur Credit and Leasing affairs, where some 10,000 depositors involving $60 million face the inability to get back their deposits. I raised this matter in the House more than a month ago, but although there is talk outside the House of amendment to the Finance Companies Act, nothing has been done date.
Why could the government act s speedily in this amendment ball, and not in the Setia Timur case. Is it because legislative the Attorney-General’s Chambers cannot be defeated in the Courts and proved legislative action someone in to be wrong in point of law, and they must come back to Parliament immediately to legalise their illegalities, to win in Parliament with blind Barisan majority what they lost in the Courts?
This attitude must not be encouraged, for it breeds a general air of careless in legislative draftsmanship, on the ground by bubsequent retroxpective legislation as they have an unthinking majority in the House.
New selection 24 of the Bill empowers the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to make Orders to remove any Difficulties or anomalies in any written law occasioned by the provisions of the Act. Under the Malaysian Constitution, the reference to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong here is not to him personally, but to Cabinet or Ministerial action.
However recently, the Attorney-General’s Chambers have taken the position that any criticism of the powers of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in these references, when in effect the are Cabinet or Ministerial powers, is an offence of sedition.
I therefore call on the government in the future bills and legislation, to avoid reference to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong when Cabinet or Ministerial powers are intended, so that this position is made clearly, to avoid anyone being accused with sedition for criticising such powers, producing another Param Cumaraswamy.