Challenge to the Senators to prove that they are not people who nobody listens to by making parliamentary history amending the OSA Bill approved by Dewan Rakyat and sending it back to Dewan Rakyat for reconsideration

Press Conference Statement by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General, MP for Tanjung and Assemblyman for Kampong Kolam, Lim Kit Siang, in Parliament House, Committee Room No.1, on Monday, 8th December 1986 at 2 p.m.

Challenge to the Senators to prove that they are not people who nobody listens to by making parliamentary history amending the OSA Bill approved by Dewan Rakyat and sending it back to Dewan Rakyat for reconsideration

DAP MPs are today wearing white arm-bands in Parliament to protest against the majority vote in the Dewan Rakyat last Friday to ram through the Official Secrets Act (Amendment) Bill.

This is also to mourn a great blow to democracy in Malaysia!

Just a s the DAP MPs fought the OSA Amendment Bill every step of the way in the Dewan Rakyat, the DAP will continue to fight the OSA Bill every step of the way before it becomes law, and after it has been gazette and put on the statute books.

Although the OSA Amendment Bill has been passed in the Dewan Rakyat, there are still three other steps to be taken before it is put on the statute books, namely (i) the passage in the Dewan Negara; (ii) presentation of the Bill by the Cabinet to the Yang di Pertuan Agong for his Royal Assent; (iii) the giving of Royal Assent.

In the recent general elections, it was the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed himself, who said the Dewan Negara is a useless Chamber as nobody listens to the Senators. Dr. Mahathir made this remark when there was a suggestion that the Barisan Nasional candidate, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, could be appointed to the Senate should he lose in the Tanjung parliamentary battle.

I do not know how the Senators feel about Prime Minister’s contemptuous dismissal, about their purpose, function and role in the system of parliamentary democracy in Malaysia, but if they are men and women of self-respect, honour and dignity, they should prove that the Senate is not a useless chamber, but could perform their constitutional duty as the second revising chamber in Parliament – and not just a rubber-stamp of the Dewan Rakyat – in the same way that the Dewan Rakyat has been reduced to a rubber stamp of the Executive.

The OSA Amendment Bill is an occasion for the Dewan Negara and the Senators to redeem themselves, to prove that they are not “people whom nobody listen to”, and who could live up to the trust and responsibility vested on them by the Constitution.

The Senators should listen to the widespread and deep-seated public opposition to the OSA Amendment Bill, and make amendments to the OSA Bill approved by the Dewan Rakyat last Friday, so that the OSA Bill is sent back to the Dewan Rakyat for reconsideration.

In one act of high duty to the nation and the Constitution, the Senators would be making parliamentary history as well as redeeming themselves as men and women who do not draw ‘gaji buta’, but take their constitutional and political responsibilities and oath of office seriously.

I will send to all Senators copy of the amendments which DAP Mp for Jelutong, Sdr. Karpal Singh, had intended to move during the Committee Stage of the OSA Amendment Bill last Friday, but was unable to do so as he was ordered out of the House by the Speaker, Tan Sri Mohamed Zahir Ismial after a clash with MIC President and Works Minister, Datuk Samy Vellu.

The Dewan Negara should adopt these amendments and amend the OSA Bill in the Dewan Negara accordingly. These amendments include the removal of the mandatory minimum one-year jail sentence for all offences under the OSA; the removal of the Minister’s powers to add to the Schedule of ‘official secrets’ without reference back to parliament; the restoration of the discretionary power of the Judiciary to decide whether a certificate by a Minister, Mentri Besar, Chief Minister or public officier that a document or information is ‘official secret’ had been properly issued, and the provision of a defence in any prosecution under the OSA that the disclosure of official information was in the ‘public or national interest’.

If the Dewan Negara makes anyone of these amendments to the OSA Bill, then the Bill would have to be referred back to Dewan Rakyat for reconsideration – and this will indeed be parliamentary history in Malaysia, for no one would ever imagine, especially after Dr. Mahathir’s derogatory reference to the Senate, that Senators would have the public spiritedness and courage to take a principled stand in the public interest.

If the Dewan Negara amends the OSA Amendment Bill approved by the Dewan Rakyat of 5th December 1986, then for the first time in the history of Dewan Rakyat, Standing Order 73 would be invoked.

Dewan Rakyat Standing Order 73(1) provides that “At any time after a Message from the Senate agreeing to a Bill with one or more amendments has been read, the member in charge of the Bill in the House may, by notifying the Setiausaha at the Table, name a day (not being less than five clear days from the day on which such notice was given) for the consideration of the Senate’s amendments.”
As the Dewan Rakyat will adjourn today, this will mean that the Dewan Rakyat will not be able to reconsider the amendments of Dewan Negara to the OSA Bill until the next scheduled parliamentary meeting in March next year.

Standing Order 74 of Dewan Rakyat provides that when the House considers the Senate’s amendments to a bill it had approved, the Dewan Rakyat may agree or disagree with the Senate’s amendments. If the Dewan Rakyat rejects the Senate’s amendments, then the Speaker has to nominate three members form a committee to draw up a Reason for the rejection of the amendments, which will be incorporated in the Dewan Rakyat’sMessage to the Senate.

Apart from making amendments to the OSA Amendment Bill approved by the dewan Rakyat, The Dewan Negara has another alternative course of action. This is to invoke Dewan Negara Standing Order 53(1) to refer the OSA Amendment Bill as approved by the Dewan Rakyat to a Select Committee for the widest study, involving the Malaysian public, about the OSA and the whole question of right of freedom of information in Malayssia.

The fact that in the past 27 years, the Dewan Negara had never invoked either of these two provisions, i.e. to amend a Bill approved by the Dewan Rakyat or refer it to a Select Committee, is itself an eloquent reflection of the utter irrelevance of the Senate. But this state of things need not go on, and the Dewan Negara can now redeem itself in the eyes of the people and history by bestirring itself from it 27-year slumber to take an active and vigorous part in the process of law-making in Malaysia.