Paper presented by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at the ALIRAN Conference on “Reflections on the Malaysians Constitution – 30 Years After Independence” on “The Role of Parliament” held at Federal Hotel, Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, 15th August 1987 at 3.30 p.m.
Call for establishment of Parliamentary Select Committee on government companies on their billion dollar losses to check whether they incurred $143 billion losses in 1985, to ensure they stop being a drain on the government finances and national economy.
Thirty years after Merdeka, Parliament’s greatest threat comes from within the constitutional system, in particular the ever-concentration of power in the hands of the executive leading to its increasing ascendancy and usurpation of the powers of Parliament.
The greatest battle Parliament has waged in the last 30 years is to fight off Executive attempts to turn Parliament into a mere rubber stamp and silence the voice of dissent in its Chambers, so that it becomes a minor department of government.
As Parliament is the apex of our system of parliamentary democracy, any attempt by any group, whether the Executive or the Prime Minister, to shear away the rights, powers and functions of Parliament must be regarded as a direct assault on democracy in Malaysia itself.
The burden of defending Parliament and democracy had fallen on the shoulders of succeeding batches of Opposition MPs, but this is becoming more and more onerous because of a growing arsenal of restrictive and repressive laws, regulations and even Standing Orders in the Dewan Rakyat. Although the fight is not yet lost, the battle is becoming more and more uphill, but there is no need to lose hope, for it Malaysians from all walks of life are prepared to join forces in the defence of Parliament and democracy, the odds can still be reversed!
I wish briefly to survey the three functions of Parliament, which are usually described as control of finance, legislative and deliberative.
CONTROL OF FINANCE
Although in theory, one of Parliament’s important functions is to control government finances, there is no effective mechanism to make such control meaningful to the extend we can question whether the Malaysian Parliament ever exercises such control.
I will give one illustration. I have just received the reply by the Minister for Public Enterprises, Napsiah Omar, to a written question in July meeting of Parliament, asking for a full list of the government companies which suffered losses, and the amount of losses concerned.
Early in May, Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) Chief Executive, Khalid Ibrahim, had said that it had set up a unit to help government-owned companies to improve their management and performance. He said that data collected by the unit shows that more than 40 per cent of government-owned companies registered losses in 1984, 1985 and 1986. Of the 628 companies that submitted their accounts for 1984, 262 or 41.72 per cent suffered losses; in 1985 of 563 companies 274 or 43.87 per cent were in the red, and in 1986, 60 companies or 42.25 per cent of the 142 companies reported losses.
But we have been told of the amount of the losses actually incurred by the government companies.
When I received the Minister’s written reply, I could not believe my eyes. She gave a list of 355 government companies which in 1985 suffered losses, 313 of which are listed as either “active”, “pre-operation”, “suspended”, “dormant” or “receivership” under the column of ‘STATUS’, while the other 42 companies had no description under the ‘STATUS’ column.
These 313 government companies incurred a total loss of $1.04 billion in 1985, with the heavy-weight losses coming from:
1. Malaysia Minig Corp. Bhd. (MMC) $390 million
2. Malay Swasta Steel Bhd. $ 75 million
3. Sabah Gas Industries Sdn. Bhd. $ 66 million
4. Malaysia Shipyard & Engineering Sdn. Bhd $ 49 million
5. Petronas Carigali Sdn. Bhd. $ 31 million
6. Petronas Gas Sdn. Bhd. $ 27 million
7. United Estates Projects Bhd. $ 29 million
8. Overseas Mineral Resources Development (Sabah) Bhd. $ 18 million
9. Kinabalu Motor Assembly Sdn. Bhd. $ 16 million
10. HICOM $ 11 million
11. PROTON $ 10 million
12. Cathay Organisation (M) Sdn. Bhd. $ 10 million
13. Koko Malaysia Sdn. Bhd. $ 8 million
14. Kedah Marble Sdn. Bhd. $ 6 million
15. Pantali Primula Hotel Sdn. Bhd. $ 8 million
16. Penang Shipbuilding Corp. Sdn. Bhd. $ 9 million
17. Perbadanan Nasional Shipping Line Bhd. $ 9 million
18. Pernas Engineering Sdn. Bhd. $ 7 million
19. Tanjong Aru Hotel Sdn. Bhd. $ 8 million
20. Mieco Chipboard Company Sdn. Bhd. $ 6 million
What is even more minding-boggling is the figures for the 42 companies where there is no description as to their ‘status’, which could mean they are being wound up, for they collectively involve a loss of $142 billion dollars? Could the Minister made a mistake to add three extra zeroes to these figures – where their total accumulated losses are only $142 million? This would seem to be too low a figure?
Whatever it is, it is abundantly clear that there is no satisfactory parliamentary mechanism to control government finances, as illustrated by the government-controlled companies. The Public Accounts Committee could is already unable to operate effectively with government department accounts, and is unlikely to make any mark on government-controlled companies.
My suggestion is the establishment of a Parliamentary Select Committee on government companies on their billion-dollar companies on their billion-dollar losses, and to check whether they had incurred $145 billion for all the 355 government companies in 1980.