Call for a Commission of Good and Ethical Government to integrity and morality in public life

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at the Charter Night Banquet of Lions Club of Petaling Jaya Central held at Krystal Ballroom, Petaling Jaya Hilton on Saturday, 28th March 1987 at 8p.m

Call for a Commission of Good and Ethical Government to integrity and morality in public life

I thank the Lions Club of Petaling Jaya Central for the honour of inviting me as the guest-speaker at your Charter Night Banquet, which marks the official launching of your Club as part of the world-wide Lions movement dedicated to community services. Even more important, your Club marks the full birth of another organization of Malaysians who are committed to community service, who put society above self, and who realizes that apart from the self-pursuits in one’s respective careers or professions, there is another more important dimension of public service.

In five months’ time, Malaysia will be celebrating our 30th year of nationhood. 1987 is important in another sense, it will be less than three years away from the year of 1990, which is becoming a watershed year fro Malaysia.

This is a period when all Malaysians should spend time and thought on the direction we had taken for the past three decades, and what future the nation has in store for us and our children. However, instead of a nation-wide soul-searching process, so that Malaysians can be more prepared to enter the 1990s and the 21st Century, we seems to be completely paralyzed by a multitude of events whether in the political, economic, educational, cultural, religious and nation-building spheres which collectively has created the greatest and most prolonged crisis of confidence in Malaysia.

Whatever national consensus that was fostered when Malaysia achieved Merdeka in 1957 seems to have been all dissipated away, to the extent that it is now commonly agreed that Malaysia is now at the cross-roads of nation-building, and we must do something collectively and urgently if we do not want the triple curses of class, racial and religious polarization threatening the very basis of the Malaysian nation in the 1990s.

A new Malaysian national consensus must be found which could pave the way for a more united, cohesive, harmonious and successful basis for Malaysian nation-building in the 1990s and the 21st century.

The search for such a new Malaysian national consensus should be the sole item of the Malaysian agenda, and the preoccupation of all Malaysians, on the occasion of our 30th Anniversary of nationhood.

A good start could be made if there is a nation-wide debate and review of how our Constitution had lived up to the expectations of the Merdeka drafters, in the following areas:

1. Whether it has promoted and entrenched the democratic system and way of life in Malaysia, reviewing in particular the draconian laws like the Internal Security Act and the Official Secrets Act;

2. Whether the human rights and fundamental liberties enshrined in the Malaysian Constitution had been given meaning in the last 30 years, and how such human rights can be given new frontiers;

3. The Role of Parliament, whether it has increasingly become a mere rubber stamp of the Cabinet, which in turn is becoming the rubber stamp of the Cabinet, which in turn is becoming the rubber stamp of the Prime Minister;

4. The Role and Independence of the Judiciary, the Rule of Law, and the doctrine of the separation of powers among the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary;

5. The position of the secular basis of the Malaysian Constitution and system of government, especially with the growing process of Islamisation in all spheres of government and the increasing demand for an Islamic State in Malaysia;

6. Federal/State relations, in particular between the Federal Government on the one hand and Sabah and Sarawak on the other;

The year 1990 is a watershed year because it represent the cut-off year for the 20-year New Economic Policy. The question forefront in Malaysian minds is the Malaysia post-NEP. This is a vital subject which should not be discussed and decided by one group or section, but by all Malaysians.

Events of the past few years have highlighted a serious breakdown of public ethics, integrity and morality in public life, and this is why Malaysia is now inundated with all sorts of rumours about high political leaders, as well as afflicted by a host of scandals, like the BMF scandal, EPF scandal, Maminco scandal, UMBC scandal, UAB and Perwira Habib Bank Scandal, Sports Toto, Co-operative Finance Scandal, Co-operative Central Bank scandal, etc.

Malaysia must establish a Commission of Good and Ethical Government with the standing duty and powers to inquire into all cases where conduct of political leaders and public officials infringe good and ethical government. Such a Commission should have the power, for instance, to act like a Royal Commission should have the power, for instance, to act like a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate into all the scandals I mentioned just now, for there is no doubt that such a breakdown in public integrity and ethics and morality is among the most serious causes of the crises of confidence Malaysia faces today.