Statement by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, after meeting the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday, January 6, 1986 at 4.30p.m.
Presentation of Ahmad Nordin BMF Inquiry Committee final report as a command paper to Parliament would provide absolute privilege whereby the government would not be liable for any litigation whatsoever arising from the report’s publication
My suggestion to the Prime Ministeri, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, whereby the Government could honour its pledge and make public the BMF final report of the Ahmad Nordin BMF Inquiry Committee without having to bear any legal consequences for any litigation is for the Government to present the final BMF report as a Command Paper in Parliament.
As the 20th Edition of Erskine May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’, p.264, explained:”In general Command Papers are those papers which are considered by the government to be of interest to Parliament but whose presentation is not required by statute. They include treaties, agreements and exchanges of notes with foreign states or give information concerning the relations of the government with international organizations. Annual reports of certain government departments and other organizations, reports of Royal Commissions and of some departmental committees and statistical reports on a wide variety of subjects are also presented as Command Papers……”
Article 63(3) of the Malaysian Constitution states:
“(3) No person shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything published by or under the authority of either House of Parliament.”
Clause 20 of the Standing Orders of Dewan Rakyat provides:
“(1): Papers shall be presented only by Tuan Yang di Pertua, a Minister or the chairman of a Committee, and shall be sent to the Setiausaha.
(2) Every paper a copy of which is so received by the Setiausaha shall be deemed to have been presented to the House and ordered to lie upon the Table.”
From the above extracts from Erskine May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’, the Malaysian Constitution and the Standing Orders of the Dewan Rakyat, it is very clear that the Government could publish the Ahmad Nordin BMF Inquiry Committee’s final report on the BMF loans scandal in full as a Command Paper in Parliament, without having to bear any legal conseuqnces for it as no litigation could arise from such a publication.
The press and members of the public may be concerned whether such a Command Paper in Parliament on the Ahmad Nordin BMF Inquiry Committee’s final report could be published in the newspaper and other media. This is provided for by the House of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Ordinance, 1952, which provides in Clause 28:
“28. In any civil or criminal proceedings instituted for publishing any extract from or abstract of any such report, paper, minute, votes or proceedings as in the preceding section mentioned, if the Court or jury (as the case may be) be satisfied that such extract or abstract was published bona fide, and without malice, judgement or verdict (as the case may be) shall be entered for the defender or accused.”
Parliament should accept full responsibility for the publication of the BMF final report
On Saturday, the Prime Minister said that the government was all for making the Ahmad Nordin Committee’s final BMF report public but is not prepared to answer any libel suit arising from it. He also said that if somebody accepted responsibility, the government would publish the report.
By presenting the BMF final report as a Command Paper, the government would not have to face any libel or any other legal action, and it is only right that Parliament should accept full responsibility for the publication of the BMF final report, in view of the national importance of the issue involved.
I am surprised that the Prime Minister and his other Cabinet colleagues as well as top government servants are not aware of this manner of making public the BMF final report. In actual fact, this is nothing nevel in Malaysia, as this was done in 1979 by the former Prime Minister, Tun Hussein Onn, who had ordered a full inquiry into the $150 million Bank Rakyat scandal by Price Waterhouse. When Price Waterhouse completed its voluminous findings and submitted its report to the government, which named over a hundred names including many UMNO politicians, one of whom is currently a Cabinet Minister, the report was made public.
This was done by the presentation of the Bank Rakyat report by Price Waterhouse as a Command Paper in Parliament (Kertas Perentah 16/79 dated 19th June 1979) accompanied by a Government White Paper. There was no hesitation about possible libel action, for clearly higher public and national interest demand the fullest disclosure of such scandalous abuse of public funds.
If the Bank Rakyat scandal involving a mere $150 million was made public without any hesitation, there could be no argument whatsoever that the BMF final report on a scandal 20 times the scale of the Bank Rakyat scandal should be made public without ado.
I cannot understand why Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir has such short memory about the manner of the presentation of the Price Waterhouse report on the Bank Rakyat scandal as a Command Paper in Parliament. Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir had never been publicly to be capable of such major lapses. But surely, the others Cabinet Ministers, like UMNO Youth and Agriculture Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman, and others should be aware that the BMF final report could be published without committing the government to any legal liabilities or having to answer any libel suits.
The Malaysian public cannot be blamed for feeling that the Government is desperately trying to find ways of suppressing the full BMF final report. Firstly, the reason advanced for suppressing the entire report was the banking secrecy provisions. However, the Ahmad Nordin BMF Inquiry Committee had anticipated this by getting a Queens’ Counsel to ensure that the govenmrnt could not use this as an excuse not to make the final report public.
The second gambit was the Attorney-General’s objection that the publication of the final report would prejudice the prosecution in Hong Kong of former BMF Directors, Lorriane Osman and Datuk Hashim Shamsuddin. But this objection also collapse when the Hong Kong Attorney-General, who should be more concerned about the outcome of the prosecution in Hong Kong, had no objection to the publicztion of the final report.
Now, the latest objection is that the publication of the final report would make the government liable to libel action. It is now clear that there is no basis whatsoever for the government’s fear for making the final report public.
In actual fact, I doubt very much that there would be much ground for anyone to institute libel proceedings even under normal circumstances as far as the BMF final report is concerned. I do not believe that Ahmad Nordin BMF Inquiry Committee, which has a lawyer as a member, would not have thought of the libel angle when preparing its report.
As I have established that the government could publish the BMF final report as a Command Paper in Parliament without having to answer any libel action, I hope Anwar Ibrahim would be prepared to publicly change his stand and advocate the government’s full publication of the BMF final report.
The question uppermost in the minds of Malaysians is what are the government hiding from the public in its unwillingness to make public the BMF final report.
The more the Prime Minister reiterates that the government has nothing to hide, while refusing to release the BMF final report in full, the more suspicious and cynical the Malaysian public become.
The Prime Minister said last Saturday that the BMF final report was “an incomplete one and contained allegations of misdemeanours of other institutions and individuals, merely suggested that further investigations be carried out into the BMF scandal.”
The BMF final report should be presented to Parliament in a special sitting summoned in the next one week, and at this special sitting, Parliament should establish a Parliamentary Inquiry Committee into the BMF loans scandal, to take on form where the Ahmad Nordin BMF Inquiry Committee ended. Those who claim that they were not given a chance to explain themselves could do so to the Parliamentary BMF Inquiry Committee, which would have the assistance of the BMF Inquiry Committee members, so that what was not fully investigated into by the BMF Inquiry Committee would be dealt with.
Such a Parliamentary BMF Inquiry Committee should be given one month to complete and submit its report to Parliament. I am giving this one month deadline because it is public knowledge that the Prime Minister is seriously considering dissolving Parliament after the Chinese New Year. This one-month deadline would enable the Prime Minister to proceed with his early polls plan-but if the Prime Minister does not intend to have early polls, then the Parliamentary BMF Inquiry Committee could probably have another month of deadline.