Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, at the DAP Cheras 11 m.s. Branch’ Back To The People Dinner’ at Cheras 11 m.s. on Wednesday, 23rd July 1992 at 9.p.m.
Parliament has powers to sit as a High Court of Parliament to summarily punish anyone, whether Attorney-General or police officer, who seeks to interview, question or charge Karpal Singh for producing the Vijandran pornographic videotape in Parliament last Monday
An important Constitutional principle is at stake when the Cabinet met yesterday over the production of the Vijandran pornographic videotape by DAP Deputy Chairman, Sdr. Karpal Singh in Parliament last Monday, and decided that the Speaker, Tan Sri Zahir Ismail, should surrender the Vijandran pornographic videotape to the Police and that Karpal Singh should be prosecuted in connection with the Vijandran pornographic videotape.
What the Cabinet had done constitutes a challenge to the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty; an open attack on the fundamental doctrine of the Separation of Powers which gives Parliament the absolute right to order its own business without any interference from any other branches of government whether the Executive or Judiciary; and another blow to parliamentary democracy in Malaysia.
Malaysia has again become the laughing stock in the world when Cabinet Ministers are more interested in trying to penalise Karpal Singh for producing the Vijandran pornographic videotape, instead of thanking Karpal for producing the Vijandran pornographic videotape after the Police had illegally destroyed eleven Vijandran pornographic videotapes and 2,000 photographs and negatives.
Karpal Singh had done Parliament and the country a great service in producing the Vijandran pornographic videotape as this has established that Karpal and the DAP MPs were acting in the national interest when they demanded the removal of D.P. Vijandran as Deputy Speaker in December 1989; while it was the Barisan Nasional Ministers and MPs who had disregarded the national interests and our international reputation by defending Vijandran although they knew of the contents of the videotapes.
DAP calls on the Barisan Nasional Ministers to respect the independence, dignity and sovereignty of Parliament, and not to abuse its powers to undermine the standing and role of Parliament.
The Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talib, should give a special briefing to all Cabinet Ministers of the provisions of the Houses of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Act 1952, where it is clearly stipulated that no MP could be prosecuted or sued in the civil courts for his conduct in Parliament.
In fact, Parliament has powers to sit as a High Court of Parliament to summarily punish anyone, whether Attorney-General or police officer, who seeks to interview, question or charge Karpal Singh for producing the Vijandran pornographic videotape in Parliament last Monday.
Thus Sections 4 and 5 of the House of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Act 1952 states:
“4. For the purpose of this Act, the House is hereby declared to possess all such powers and jurisdiction as may be necessary for enquiring into, judging, and pronouncing up the commission of any such acts, matters or things as are made punishable as contempts under Section 29 of this Act and awarding and carrying into execution the punishment therefor provided by this Act.
“5. The House sitting as a court shall have all such rights and privileges of a court of record, as maybe necessary for the purpose of summarily enquiring into and punishing the acts, matters and things made punishable as contempts under section 29 of this Act.”
Sections 3 and 7 of the Act make very clear the parliamentary immunity of MPs as far as their conduct in Parliament is concerned:
“3. There shall be freedom of speech and debate or proceedings in the House and such freedom of speech and debate or proceedings shall not be liable to be impeached or questioned in any court or tribunal out of the House.”
“7. No member shall be liable to any civil or criminal proceedings, arrests, imprisonment, or damages by reason of any matter or thing which he may have brought by petition, bill, resolution, motion, or otherwise, or have said before the House or any committee.”
What Karpal Singh had done last Monday in producing the Vijandran pornographic videotape in Parliament and presenting it to the Chair is fully in keeping with his parliamentary privileges and protected by immunity laid down in the various sections in the Houses of Parliament(Privileges and Powers) Act 1952.
A test case of Rule of Law and democracy in Malaysia
Any attempt on the part of the police to interview, question or change Karpal for producing the Vijandran pornographic videotape will be a violation of section 9(e) of “… obstructing… any member…on account of his conduct in the House”, for which Parliament can sit as High Court of Parliament to summarily punish the offender for having committed ‘contempt’- whether by way of fine or jail custody.
Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice (12th Edition) defined “parliamentary privilege” as follows: “Parliamentary privilege is the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively as a constituent part of the High Court of Parliament, and by members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions, and which exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals. Thus privilege, although part of the law of the land, is to a certain extent an exemption from the ordinary law.”
If the Barisan Nasional Government has reached a stage where it has no more respect for the parliamentary privileges of MPs, then it has lost its commitment to the system of Parliamentary democracy in Malaysia.
This may be why the Barisan Nasional Government was prepared in May to suspend the Parliamentary Opposition Leader from attending Parliament until the end of the year for trying to make further disclosures about the $130 million MAIKA Telekom shares hijacking scandal which involved a senior Cabinet Minister.
Nothing will gladden the hearts of the Barisan Ministers and leaders more than to prosecute Karpal and me
All Malaysians know that nothing will gladden the hearts of the Barisan Nasional Ministers and leaders more than to arrest and charge both Karpal Singh and I in court – Karpal for producing the Vijandran pornographic videotape in Parliament last Monday and me for my citizen’s protest in refusing to pay $5.80 toll to PLUS at the Ayer Keroh Toll Plaza on July 11 in protest for its failure to provide a safer, more comfortable and faster highway’.
From the zeal of the Government to prosecute me, one would have thought that my ‘citizen protest’ had involved swindling the government of $5.8 million or even $58 million!
However, in their eagerness to prosecute and persecute us, the Barisan Nasional leaders should not undermine and destroy the principles and system of parliamentary democracy.
The Vijandran pornographic videotape produced by Karpal Singh has become a classic test-case as to whether the Barisan Nasional Government accepts the fundamental principles of democracy, upholds the Rule of Law and respects the independence, dignity and sovereignty of Parliament.
If the Barisan Nasional bull-dozes its way through by compelling the Speaker to surrender the Vijandran pornographic videotape to the Police so that Karpal Singh could be prosecuted, then Malaysians and the world will recognise this as further erosion of democratic freedoms and human rights in Malaysia.
Call on Attorney-General to declare that Karpal was exercising his parliamentary privilege and cannot be interviewed, questioned or charged for producing the Vijandran pornographic videotape in Parliament
Malaysians will have another reason why they cannot hold their heads high when they are overseas and when attending international forums and conferences.
I call on the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talib, to make a clear-cut statement that in view of the Houses of Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act 1952, Karpal Singh was exercising his parliamentary privilege and cannot be interviewed, questioned or charged for any offence for producing the Vijandran pornographic videotape in Parliament last Monday.