Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat during the debate on the Royal Address on Tuesday, February 27, 1990
All Malaysians should respond as one and rally to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s call for the defence of Parliamentary democracy in Malaysia
I rise to support the Motion of Thanks to the ninth Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Azlan Shah, for His Majesty’s gracious speech to the Joint Session of Parliament yesterday.
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong made a very important call when he said: “We must all carry out our respective roles in order to ensure peace and prosperity for the country. I urge all Malaysians to uphold their patriotism so that Parliamentary Democracy and Constitutional Monarchy will continue to be a part of our way of life.”
This is a clarion call by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to all Malaysians to defend Parliamentary Democracy and Constitutional Monarchy in Malaysia. All Malaysians, regardless of race or religion, should respond as one and rally to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s call for the defence of Parliament Democracy and Constitutional Monarchy in Malaysia.
All over the world, great political changes are afoot, whether in Eastern Europe, in Soviet Union or even in South Africa.
Malaysia falling behind in the league of nations on human rights and democratic freedoms
in the past, our government leaders had stood up in international forums to pass judgments on the lack of democratic freedoms and human rights in these countries. But at the opening of the new Decade of the 1990s, Malaysia seemed to have fallen behind in the league of nations where its peoples enjoy meaningful human rights and democratic freedoms.
Malaysia has fallen behind economically where from being the second after Japan in Asia during Merdeka in 1957, Malaysia has fallen behind the four little dragons of Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong. And now, Malaysia is also trailing behind on the political plane.
Malaysia’s falling behind in the league of nations on the record of human rights and democratic freedoms is because of two factors: Firstly, the forward movement of many of these unfree nations towards greater democratisation and respect for human rights; and secondly, the remorseless regression and curtailment of democratic freedoms and human rights in Malaysia.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed left for Lusaka yesterday to meet with Nelson Mandela, who had been incarcerated for 27 years for his battle against the racist apartheid policies of the Pretoria regime.
But after Nelson Mandela’s release from jail, the African National Congress could address public rallies of 50,000 people and even 100,000 people in Cape Town and other places in South Africa, but in Malaysia, which claims a moral superiority to the repressive regime of South Africa, public rallies are still banned despite the signing of the Peace Agreements between the Malaysian Government and the Communist Party of Malaya in Haadyai last December on the ending of the 41-year armed communist struggle.
Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir has left immediately after the opening of the Parliament, leaving the country without a Prime Minister or a Deputy Prime Minister or an Acting Prime Minister, for Lusaka to rightly pay tribute to a freedom fighter who had spent 27 years of his life in jail for the democratic freedoms and human rights of his people and country.
DAP fully supports Nelson Mandela and his struggle for the restoration of human rights and dignity of his people and country, for the struggle for human rights and democratic freedoms is a universal human aspiration which knows no national or other man-made boundaries.
A Malaysian Nelson Mandela would be denounced by the Mahathir Government as a traitor and prosecuted and jailed
Unfortunately, if a Malaysian should stand up and speak in another country about the need for international support and solidarity for the defence of human rights and democratic freedoms in Malaysia, he would be denounced as a traitor by the government and the official propaganda machinery and mass media. By this Barisan Nasional yardstick, Nelson Mandela is a traitor in going to Lusaka to meet with Dr. Mahathir on the cause of human rights and democratic freedoms of Black South Africans.
I have no doubt that a Malaysian Nelson Mandela who meets with foreign leaders in foreign bounties about human injustices and indignities in his own homeland would be denounced by the Mahathir Government, prosecuted and jailed!
Malaysia must not have double standards on human rights and democratic freedoms – whether for different countries, or for Malaysians. It is for this reason that I hereby call on the Malaysian Government to express its concern and condemnation of human rights violations in Myanmar.
Call for release of all political prisoners in Myanmar and lifting of restrictions on Aung San Suu Kyi from standing in elections
Recently, the Election Commission of Myanmar State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) disqualified Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest, from running as a candidate in the national elections scheduled for May 27 of this year. There are also troubling reports that former Prime Minister U Nu has been placed under house arrest, and that the National League for Democracy (NLD) leader U Tin Oo has been sentenced t three years imprisonment on charges of “subversion” following a summary trial by a military tribunal.
Members of Parliament in Malaysia as well as the Government must make clear their concern about the continuing arrests and imprisonment of thousands of members of the NLD and other opposition group and student organisations, as well as reports of systematic torture of many of these political detainees.
The Malaysians Government should ask the Myanmar authorities to lift the restrictions against Aung San Suu Kyi, and allow her and all other opposition figures to fully exercise their rights to freedom of speech and association, and for the release of all persons detained for the peaceful exercise of those rights, including U Tin Oo.
However, the Malaysian government’s stand on human rights and democratic freedoms is so selective and suspect, that Malaysia has become a favourite target of international criticisms precisely because of he down growing human rights violations.
In fact, in the last four years after the 1986 general elections, the Mahathir Government embarked on a systematic concentration of power in its hands, undermining important institutions and constitutional principles meant as essential checks and balances for a functioning and viable parliamentary democracy in Malaysia.
Corruption is no crime, but expose of corruption is criminal
In 1986, the Official Secrets Act was amended to make it a mandatory minimum one-year jail sentence for anyone to ‘blow the whistle’ to expose financial scandals. Henceforth, it became a greater crime to expose government financial scandals than to be guilty of such scandals through criminal breach of trust or misappropriation of public funds.
If the Government could not invoke the Official Secrets Act for the expose of governmental financial scandals, they could still fall back on the Internal Security Act to lock up the “whistle-blowers”. This is how Karpal Singh, DAP national Deputy Chairman and MP for Jelutong, and I found ourselves in Kamunting detention centre – because of the $60 billion North-South Highway Scandal of the UMNO-owned company, the current biggest star in the corporate firmament, the United Engineers Malaysia (UEM).
In the topsy-turvy world of the Mahathir Government, corruption is no crime, but expose of corruption is criminal!
Campaign to instil fear and terror among the people
In 1987, the Government created dear and terror in the country by the arbitrary and indiscriminate mass arrest of Opposition leaders, MPs and critics of the government under the infamous Operaion Lalang. Altogether 106 innocent Malaysians were detained, out of which 66 were released by the end of the two-month interrogation pleriod, and the very fact that not a single one of the 40 persons served with formal two-year detention orders were detained for the full two-year term highlights how flimsy were the so-called security reasons for their detention.
It was clear that the object of the Operation Lalang was not to protect the national interests, but to put the fear and terror in Malaysians not to oppose criticise the Prime Minister and his policies. There was in fact a time in 1988 when my fellow-detainees and I in Kamunting detention centre were expecting Tengku Razaleigh and other Semangat 46 leaders to join us to enjoy the hospitality of His Majesty’s Government.
Four newspapers were closed down during Operation Lalang. Before 1987 ended, the Government used its overwhelming majority in Parliament to amend the Police Act and the Printing Presses and Publications Act to further curtail the fundamental rights of Malaysians to freedom of expression, assembly and association.
The decapitation of the Judiciary and destruction of the independence of the Judiciary
In 1988, the Barisan Nasional Government moved against the Judiciary. In March, it again resorted to its overwhelming majority in Parliament to amend the Constitution to allow the Executive to usurp judicial powers and functions. Its next step was to decapitate the Judiciary by sacking the Lord President, Tun Salleh Abas, and two Supreme Court Judges, Tan Sri Wan Suleiman and Datuk George Seah. In one fell swoop, the fundamental principles of the independence of judiciary, the rule of law and the doctrine of separation of powers were destroyed. In July 1988, and again in June 1989, Dr. Mahathir eliminated the judicial review of detentions under the Internal Security Act, conferring dictatorial powers on himself.
Four dubious decisions of Tan Sri Abu Talib in the Vijandran pornographic videotapes scandal
In 1989, the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talib, directed the Police to destroy the vital evidence in the Vijandran pornographic videotapes scandal – the eleven Vijandran videotapes, four envelops of 2,000 photographs and negatives stolen from the safe of the former Deputy Speaker of Dewan Rakyat, D.P. Vijandran, in August 1988 after making four very dubious and questionable decisions:
Firstly, that the four persons who were arrested for the burglary of the safe would not be prosecuted, as Vijandran’s mother could not identify the burglars despite the fact that the
burglary took place in broad daylight;
Secondly, that Vijandran would not be prosecuted for possession of pornographic
videotapes, photographs and negatives;
Thirdly, that Vijandran would not be prosecuted for lodging false police report claiming
that in the burglary, the safe that was stolen had important MIC documents when they
only had the videotapes, photographs and negatives; and
Fourthly, that the eleven Vijandran videotapes, the 2,000 photographs and negatives
be destroyed with the consent of Vijandran. In the circumstances, if the videotapes
were pornographic, did Vijandran have the right to withhold consent?
Be that as it may, the revelation by the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman, on January, that he had ordered the destruction of the videotapes and photographs had sent out shock reverberrations whose effects are still being felt today.
Before the Parliamentary meeting, I had tabled a motion to remove D.P. Vijandran as Deputy Speaker and to refer him to the Committee of Privileges. Two days before the opening of Parliament, Vijandran sent in his letter of resignation as Deputy Speaker, after he had applied and been granted indefinite long leave as Deputy Speaker a month earlier.
Yesterday’s papers carried a statement by Vijandran issued by his lawyers giving reasons for stepping down as Deputy Speaker.
His first reason was the heavy burden placed on the Speaker, Tan Sri Mohamed Zahir Ismail and the other Deputy Speaker, Datuk Mohamed Amin Daud, because of his leave.
The second reasons was that the entire issue had been highly politicised, although he said the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, the MIC President, Datuk Samy Vellu and the Speaker, Tan Sri Zahir Ismail, had defended his right to continue as deputy speaker on the basis that a man is innocent until proven guilty.
The third reason was that the constant harping on the issue by the DAP which, he alleged, seems calculated to create a prejudicial climate against him to affect the defamation suit he had filed against the DAP MP for Jelutong, Karpal Singh.
As Vijandran has submitted his resignation as Deputy Speaker, I do not propose to comment at length on his position, although he should have resigned as MP as Kapar as well. In fact, ever since the shocking revelation by the Attorney-General on January 10 that he had ordered the destruction of the Vijandran videotapes, photographs and negatives, the Vijandran issue had been reduced to a minor and peripheral issue as compared to the larger and more fundamental issue of the abuses of power by the Attorney-General.
However, his public statement yesterday on his three reasons for his final resignation as Deputy Speaker of Dewan Rakyat cannot be allowed to go unchallenged in one important aspect.
Vijandran asserted that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, the MIC President, Datuk Samy Vellu and the Speaker, Tan Sri Zahir Ismail, defended his right to remain as Deputy Speaker, reflecting very well on their respect for the law and the courts.
Were Dr. Mahathir, Datuk Samy Vellu and Tan Sri Zahir right in defending D.P. Vijandran?
The important question to ask is whether the Prime Minister, the MIC President and the Speaker were right in defending the right of D.P. Vijandran to remain as Deputy Speaker. This is a very important question, and the correct answer is necessary as a guide for future government actions in similar situations.
I want here to challenge the propriety and principle of the position taken by the Prime Minister, the MIC President who is also Works and Posts Minister, and the Speaker of Dewan Rakyat that D.P. Vijandran has the right to remain as Deputy Speaker until the outcome of the defamation suit Vijandran had filed against Karpal Singh.
I want to reiterate that I had never asked the Dr. Mahathir, Datuk Samy Vellu and the Cabinet Ministers to pre-judge Vijandran and pronounce him guilty of involvement and being the star actor in the eleven videotapes and 2,000 photographs. This would be most unfair, and I myself will never subscribe to such injustice.
But in this case, I believe no Cabinet Ministers can honestly and responsibly claim that he does not know the contents of the eleven Vijandran videotapes, 2,000 photographs and negatives orders to be destroyed by the Attorney-General.
The Police and the Attorney-General knew that what were the contents of the eleven Vijandran videotapes, photographs and negatives, as to whether they were pornographic or not, whether they featured Vijandran or not.
The Cabinet could easily find out fact from the Police and the Attorney-General, and the knowledge of the Police and the Attorney-General must be attributed to be the knowledge of the Cabinet and the Prime Minister, unless they acted as ostriches hiding their heads in the sand.
If Vijandran videotapes innocuous and not pornographic Government has done him an injustice by not defending him
if he allegations made by Karpal Singh, that Vijandran was involved in the pornographic videotapes, pertained to matters which were not in the knowledge or custory of the Government, the Police or Attorney-General, it would be perfectly correct and right for the Government to take the position that one should not pre-judge and that it would be for the courts to decide the veracity of the allegations.
However, in the case where the Government, through Police recovery of the eleven Vijandran videotapes, 2,000 photographs and negatives, and Police viewing of the videotapes and pictures, as well as subsequent submission of police inquiry papers to the Attorney-General, the Government cannot claim ignorance.
The Prime Minister and the Cabinet, through the Police and the Attorney-General, knew what were the nature of the contents of the Vijandran videotapes, pictures and negatives – whether they were pornographic and involved Vijandran or not.
If the Vijandran videotapes, pictures and negatives were harmless and innocuous, and were not pornographic at all, then it is the height of irresponsibility on the part of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, the Police and the Attorney-General not to state so publicly, and clear the name of D.P. Vijandran.
Furthermore, in allowing D.P. Vijandran to resign as Deputy Speaker when they know fully well that the Vijandran videotapes, photographs and negatives were harmless and not pornographic at all, the Prime Minister, Datuk Samy Vellu and the entire Cabinet would have acted in a most dishonourable, disgraceful and contemptible fashion, deserving the condemnation of all right-thinking Malaysians.
Is Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, Datuk Samy Vellu and the other Cabinet Ministers men and women of so little honour and decency, to allow D.P. Vijandran to resign as Deputy Speaker – and in the case of MIC, to resign as MIC Secretary-General and MAIKA HOLDINGS chairman – when they knew for sure (because of the knowledge of the Police and the Attorney-General) that the Vijandran videotapes and photographs were innocuous and not pornographic.
However much I may disagree with the politics of Dr. Mahathir, Datuk Samy Vellu and the rest of the Cabinet, I do not think they are men and women of so little honour and decency.
Admission of Vijandran’s guilt
I have no doubt that they knew the contents of the Vijandran videotapes and photographs, and if the videotapes and photographs are innocuous and not pornographic, they would have defended Vijandran to the hilt and would never allow him to resign as Deputy Speaker – which tantamounts to an admission of guilt!
I said I have no doubt that the Cabinet Ministers knew of the contents of the Vijandran videotapes and photographs, because it is their job and duty to find out what the Police and the Attorney-General knew. If the Cabinet Ministers had not asked for such a briefing from the Police and the Attorney-General, they would have been guilty of gross dereliction of duty.
I can only conclude that the Cabinet Ministers had been given a briefing by the police or the Attorney-General about the Vijandran tapes and photographs, and they have found it wiser to pretend that they do not know about the contents of the tapes.
In fact, I have strong reason for believing that several important Cabinet Ministers had viewed the videotapes.
Are Cabinet Ministers men and women of so little honour and decency
if we cannot accept the premise that the Cabinet Ministers are men and women of so little honour and decency where after knowing that the Vijandran videotapes and photographs were innocuous and not pornographic, they would not stand by Vijandran and allow him to be sacrificed, then we can only conclude that the Cabinet Ministers know, through the Police and the Attorney-General, that the Vijandran videotapes were pornographic and/or featured Vijandran himself.
In these circumstances, for anyone, let alone the Prime Minister, to defend Vijandran to the last, and still claiming that it was Vijandran’s right to remain as Deputy Speaker, would be another type of irresponsibility of no lesser magnitude!
This would mean that for two long months, the entire Cabinet, from the Prime Minister downwards, had been defending a person who had been guilty of the pornographic videotapes scandal, and if not for the relentless pressure by the DAP, would have continued as Deputy Speaker, and representing Malaysia in may international conferences and functions!
This is why in my letter to the Prime Minister dated 14th January, 1990, I had written:
“The government cannot and should not use the defamation suit filed by D.P. Vijandran against Karpal Singh as an excuse for inaction on the allegation of Vijandran’s featuring in the pornographic in tapes.
“The eleven videotapes concerned were in the custody and care of the Police from October 1988. The Government, through Police investigations and viewing of the videotapes concerned, knew what was on the tapes. The government has a moral and political responsibility to act on the information in its possession, through the Police and the Attorney-General, to safeguard the good name and reputation of the country.
“This is an issue which has nothing whatsoever to do with the defamation suit filed by D.P. Vijandran against Karpal Singh. Similarly, if the government has clear information that a Minister or Deputy Minister is corrupt, it has a moral and political responsibility to rid the government of such a Minister or Deputy Minister, and not wait for civil litigation to prove such corruption….
“There is a growing sense of moral outrage among the people at the government’s stand on the D.P. Vijandran issue, where the government, from the Prime Minister downwards, seems to be solidly behind D.P. Vijandran….
“The government’s pressing responsibility is to safeguard its possession as to the contents of the eleven videotapes, the Government must either publicly and categorically state that the videotapes are not pornographic or that Vijandran did not feature in them, or take the only honourable and responsible way out to remove Vijandran as Deputy Speaker of Parliament.
“If the government is not prepared to publicly exonerate D.P. Vijandran although it had information in its possession about the nature of the eleven videotapes, the Malaysian public can only conclude that D.P. Vijandran is not fit to continue as Deputy Speaker and Member of Parliament.”
The same moral dilemma faces the Government even now, although Vijandran has resigned as Deputy Speaker, for the simple reason that he still remain as Barisan Nasional MP for Kapar.
Knowing the contents of the videotapes through the Police and the Attorney-General, THE Prime Minister and the entire cabinet would be seen as dishonourable, cowardly and contemptible if they are not prepared to openly come to the defence of Vijandran, not only as MP, but also as Deputy Speaker if the videotapes are innocuous.
On the contrary, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet would be failing their political, moral and national duty if knowing that the videotapes are pornographic and/or featured Vijandran, they continued to provide him backing, including retaining his status as Member of Parliament.
Is the Attorney-General subject to Parliament, or higher than Parliament and a law unto himself?
The Vijandran issue is important not because of the fate of on Barisan Nasional politician, but in the frightening spectacle of a Government which has ceased to be able to differentiate right from wrong. Drunk with the over-concentration of powers in its hands, the Barisan Nasional Government has developed utter contempt for the fundamental democratic principles of public accountability and collective responsibility which, in the final analysis, will pose the greatest threat to the system of Parliamentary democracy in Malaysia.
This is starkly highlighted by the abuses of power by the Attorney-General in the Vijandran pornographic videotapes scandal. In fact, Parliamentary democracy in Malaysia has received such sustained attack that today, the country is faced with the question as to whether the Attorney-General is subject to Parliament, or higher than Parliament and a law unto himself.
The Attorney-General has misled both the Deputy Home Minister and the Police CID Director
This is a question which would never be posed in a meaningful Parliamentary Democracy, for there could be no doubt whatsoever that the Attorney-General is indisputably subordinate and subject to Parliament. But in Malaysia, Parliamentary Democracy has become so subverted and truncated that there are Cabinet Ministers who assert that Parliament cannot call the Attorney-General to account for his abuses of powers, giving this as one reason why they could not support my second motion which I had tabled in this Parliamentary meeting to remove Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman as Attorney-General for the obstruction of justice and police investigations in ordering the destruction of the eleven Vijandran pornographic videotapes, photographs and negatives.
In secretly ordering the destruction of the eleven Vijandran pornographic videotapes, photographs and negatives, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman had caused the Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Megat Junid Datuk Megat Ayob, to mislead Parliament and the country in December last year that the Police were conducting investigations into the stolen pornographic videotapes, photographs and negatives. For this misdemeanour alone, Tan Sri Abu Talib should be summoned before the Committee of Privileges to explain his action.
But what is even more unbelievable, the secret order of the Attorney-General on the destruction of the Vijandran videotapes, pictures and negatives, had been done without the knowledge of the higher Police authorities, resulting in the pathetic spectacle of the CID Director, Datuk Mohamed Zaman Khan, publicly confessing that what he had been saying about police investigations were all untrue, and that the videotapes, pictures and negatives had been destroyed long ago.
In a healthy Parliamentary democracy, where the principle of government accountability and responsibility is deeply honoured, these scandalous developments would have resulted in a full-scale public inquiry into how the Deputy Home Minister and the CID Director could be misled to make false and untrue public statements about the case, the correctness and lawfulness of the action of the Attorney-General to destroy the videotapes, photographs and negatives without an order from a magistrate, and whether the Attorney-General had abused his powers.
But the Attorney-General could give the tongue-in-cheek statement that he was prepared to face the lawful consequences for his decision to order the destruction of the videotapes, photographs and negatives, knowing full well that he, as Attorney-General, would decide on what these lawful consequences would be.
The Solicitor-General has no constitutional powers to review the powers of the Attorney-General
That is why we have the equally unthinkable episode of the Solicitor-General, the No.2 man in the Attorney-General’s Chambers, Datuk Abdul Aziz Mohamad, coming out with a 16-page statement on February 21 announcing his decision tat his boss, the Attorney-General, had committed no wrong in his decisions to destroy the Vijandran videotapes, photographs and negatives and not to institute any prosecutions against any one.
Under the Constitution, the Solicitor-General has no powers whatsoever to review the Attorney-General’s absolute discretion in deciding not to institute prosecutions in connection with the Vijandran pornographic scandal. Only Parliament can carry out such a review.
In any event, who could believe that the Solicitor-General could have come to any conclusion other than to exonerate his boss, the Attorney-General, of any wrongdoing in the Vijandran pornographic videotapes scandal?
The Attorney-General is Judge, Jury and Accused in One
What we have before us is the Attorney-General, through his subordinate, the Solicitor-General, assuming the multiple roles of Judge, Jury and Accused, in the police reports lodged against him for committing criminal offences in ordering the destroying the Vijandran pornographic videotapes, pictures and negatives.
But what is most unbelievable about the 16-page exoneration of the Attorney-General is the Solicitor-General’s complete failure to address the nub of the whole issue – whether the Vijandran videotapes, photographs and negatives were pornographic or not. It is this failure which gives the Solicitor-General’s 16-page statement the mark of a major government cover-up of the scandal.
The Solicitor-General said that he found that the Attorney-General was acting within his powers when he decided to destroy the Vijandran videotapes, photographs and negatives, and he saw “no indication that the decision was tainted by any bad or improper motive” and that it was a “bona fide decision”. It does not require a highly-trained and experienced lawyer to know that in deciding whether the Attorney-General’s decision to destroy the Vijandran videotapes, photographs and negatives was right, proper, bona fide, or wrong, mala fide, tainted by bad and improper motive, the crucial question must be whether these Vijandran videotapes, photographs and negatives were pornographic or not.
If these Vijandran videotapes, photographs and negatives were pornographic, then a strong assumption is raised that in failing to prosecute Vijandran for possession of pornographic materials, and in further ordering their destruction, the Attorney-General’s action had been “tainted by bad and improper motive” and therefore not a “bona fide decision”.
How can the Solicitor-General expect to convince Malaysians that he had carried out a full, through and bona fide review of the actions of the Attorney-General on the destruction of the Vijandran videotapes, photographs and negatives, when he is unable to declare whether they were pornographic or not?
Has Parliament lost its powers of control over Attorney-General?
This omission destroys the entire credibility of the 16-page statement by the Solicitor-General to exonerate the Attorney-General.
I do not propose to go further at length into the very important issue of the abuses of power by the Attorney-General, as I have a motion standing in my name for the removal of Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman.
I agree with the Solicitor-General that it is established by law that the prosecuting authority cannot be compelled to prosecute and that the decisions of the prosecuting authority not to prosecute cannot be questioned in the courts. All the more, such a decision of the Attorney-General cannot be questioned by his subordinate, the Solicitor-General.
The only forum and institution which could review and question the Attorney-General’s absolute discretion on prosecutions is Parliament, unless Parliamentary democracy in Malaysia had been derogated to a stage that I had not known – where such Parliamentary powers and privileges have ceased to exist.
The Government Ministers and Barisan MPs may or may not agree with my proposal that Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman should be removed as Attorney-General because of his abuses of power, but there can be no dispute that Parliament must re-assert and regain its powers and privileges of control and review over the powers of the Attorney-General.
If my motion for the removal of the Attorney-General could not even get debated, then Parliamentary democracy in Malaysia is in very grave straits, and the call of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in his Royal Address to defend and preserve Parliamentary Democracy in Malaysia is urgent and valid.
Let me take up the thread of my argument that Parliamentary Democracy is facing perilous danger, and the call by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to Malaysians to uphold their patriotism to defend and preserve Parliamentary Democracy could not be more apt and timely.
This is why the Viji/AG pornographic videotapes scandal is important, not because of the personalities involved, but because of the issues and principles of parliamentary democracy and government responsibility. I have no doubt that in the early decades of the country, whether in the 1960s or 1970s, no Attorney-General would have acted in the manner Tan Sri Abu Talib had acted and destroyed the Vijandran video, photographs and negatives, or resisted giving a full accounting of his actions to Parliament, as there was greater respect for Parliamentary powers and privileges as well as for the rule of law.
In fact, a responsible Attorney-General who respected his constitutional duties and accountability to Parliament would have offered to appear before the Committee of Privileges or a Special Parliamentary Select Committee to explain his actions, and when police reports were lodged against him, recommended to the Cabinet for the appointment of an Independent Special Prosecutor to take decisions on all matters connected with such reports.
The attack on the independence of the Election Commission is another grave threat to Parliamentary Democracy
In 1990, the threat to meaningful parliamentary democracy has continued apace. In 1990, the institution that has come under attack is the Election Commission, which had been entrusted with the important task to conduct free and fair elections.
The UMNO Baru, fearful of losing its two-third parliamentary majority in the next general elections, or may be power itself, has sent a secret directive to the Election Commission to conduct a snap 27-day voters’ registration exercise, which will begin on March 1, aimed primarily at registering the 300,000 UMNO Baru members who have not registered as voters.
The mechanics of the voters’ registration will be such that UMNO Baru workers will be engaged as registration officials in the guise as staff of Kemas or other quasi-government staff, and that even UMNO Baru members who have not reached the qualifying age of 21 years would be registered. The whole idea is to pad the Electoral Roll with UMNO Baru members as much as possible, while denying opposition parties the facilities of helping to register every eligible voter.
The UMNO Baru also wants changes in the election rules and regulations, like the system of counting at the respective polling stations instead of a centralised counting centre in each Parliamentary constituency, for its own advantage.
Once the independence of the Election Commission is destroyed, and it is reduced to an elections bureau of UMNO Baru, then Parliamentary Democracy itself is under grave threat.
DAP welcome establishment of concerned citizens’ group of Election Watch led by Tun Suffian to protect independence and integrity of Election Commission
It is for this reason that all Malaysians must welcome the announcement yesterday on the establishment of a concerned citizens’ group, known as Election Watch, led by former Lord President, Tun Suffian, to protect and preserve the independence and integrity of the Election Commission. The five members this Election Watch group are Tan Sri Ahmad Nordin Zakaria, former Auditor-General, Raja Aziz Adruse, former Bar Council Chairman, Dato’ Param Cumaraswamy, former Bar Council Chairman, Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, President Aliran and Chooi Mun Sou, a member of the BMF Inquiry Committee.
This Election Watch group deserves the support of all Malaysians who are concerned about the democratic freedoms, human rights and Parliamentary Democracy in Malaysia. I would urge the Government, and in particular the Election Commission, to extend its fullest co-operation to the Election Watch, unless they have things to hide.
I want to reiterate here that to preserve its Constitutional independence and to continue to enjoy public confidence, the Election Commission should work closely with all political parties, whether ruling or opposition, and should not receive secret directives from UMNO Baru or other ruling parties, whether through the government or directly.
Two-thirds Barisan Parliamentary Majority is the greatest threat to Parliamentary Democracy in Malaysia
If we look back at the past decade of Mahathir rule, and in particular at the systematic erosion of democratic freedoms and human rights since the 1986 general elections, we cannot but conclude that the greatest threat to Parliamentary Democracy is over-concentration of political power in the hands of the Executive and in particular in the Prime Minister because of the government’s two-thirds Parliamentary majority.
Because it had overwhelming two-third parliamentary majority, the government has become unaccountable and irresponsible, as evidenced by the innumerable financial and now moral scandals, human rights violations and gross abuses of power.
Ironically, the greatest threat to Parliamentary Democracy in Malaysia are none other than the Barisan Nasional MPs themselves who, by their two-thirds majority, had allowed the systematic destruction of fundamental rights and important institutions necessary as checks and balances of a functioning Parliamentary Democracy.
The road to return to meaningful parliamentary democracy must begin with the removal of two-thirds parliamentary majority. In fact, it is only with such removal that there could be an end to the unending scandals, unaccountability, human rights violations and abuses of power in Malaysia.
Even national unity had been greatly harmed by the concentration of power because of the two-thirds majority, where the government has become insensitive to the legitimate rights and aspirations of all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion, language or culture.
National campaign for freedom of religion by the Malaysian Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikkhism
This is why the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikkhism (MCCBCHS) has launched a nation-wide campaign to request the Government to reject the imposition of Islamic Laws on non-Muslim Malaysians.
The nation-wide campaign of the MCCBCHS has as its first prong a nation-wide signature campaign to request the government to ensure that the Syariah is not imposed on non-Muslim Malaysians; and a second prong of three-day prayers which was held from February 9 -11 for:
(a) Freedom to profess and practise one’s religion;
(b) Freedom from the application of the Syariah to non-Muslim Malaysians;
(c) Peace and understanding between peoples of the different faiths.
I commend all Ministers and MPs the memorandum prepared by the MCCBCHS entitled “Why MCCBCHS Rejects the Application of the Syariah on Non-Muslims” to explain the reason for the nation-wide campaign.
Some of the examples which the MCCBS has cited to demonstrate its concern with attempts to gradually apply the Islamic Laws in Malaysia are:
• The subject, “Islamic Civilisation”, has become compulsory for all tertiary students in Malaysia. MCCBCHS had appealed, time and again, to the Government to allow the teaching of the pupil’s own religion in the schools, but in vain.
• In most of the town structural plans, whether Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, Klang or Johore Bahru, there is a disparity of proportions for the building of mosques, temples and churches.
• Similarly, in these structural plans, there is either discrimination in the allocation of land for burial purposes or no allocation at all for the non-Muslims.
• It is very difficult and frustrating to get approval for the building of a temple or a Church.
• On radio and television, there is blatant injustice for non-Muslim programmes.
• Prohibition and restriction of foreign religious personnel, like priests and temple musicians, for non-Muslim religions.
• Crosses have been distorted write-ups of religions other than Islam in school textbooks.
• Children below the age of maturity have been converted to Islam without the consent of parents or guardians.
• Non-Muslims have been forbidden to use certain words of Arabic origin in Bahasa Malaysia.
• Free circulation of anti-Christian tapes and literature.
Over the years, these legitimate concerns had not received the proper and serious attention of the Government, largely because it felt it could afford to disregard them because of its overwhelming two-third parliamentary majority.
Steps to Preserve and Protect Parliamentary Democracy
One of the first calls made by Nelson Mandela when he stepped out of 27 years of incarceration was for the end of the emergency rule in South Africa.
I have no doubt that this call by Nelson Mandela has the support of Dr. Mahathir Mohamed. However, we must never forget that in Malaysia, there are not one, but four Proclamations of Emergency currently in force.
Let us heed the call by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong that Malaysians must be patriotic in the protection of parliamentary democracy. This is why DAP leaders are prepared to go to detention in Kamunting, because we love Malaysia and we are patriotic, and we are prepared to pay the price for defending parliamentary democracy in Malaysia.
MPs should consider how Malaysia can return to the road to Parliamentary democracy after the innumerable erosions and encroachments on democratic freedoms and human rights in Malaysia. I suggest that the following steps should be taken immediately, if we are to heed the call of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong seriously:
1. The lifting of the four Proclamations of Emergency;
2. The lifting of the ban on public rallies;
3. Restoration of the Independence of Judiciary;
4. Restoration of the Independence of the Election Commission;
5. Establishment of a Royal Commission on the repeal of all undemocratic laws, such as Internal Security Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Printing Presses and Publication Act,