Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at the opening of the first DAPSY National Congress held at Transport Workers’ Union Hall, Petaling Jaya on Sunday, 20th December 1992 at 10 a.m.
DAP calls on the Government to abide by the Constitution and even to postpone the special Parliamentary sittings in January so as to seek the consent of the Conference of Rulers first before presenting the Constitution Amendment Bill to Parliament to remove the immunity of Rulers
The Speaker of Dewan Rakyat, Tan Sri Zahir Ismail, said on Friday that he had that morning received the Prime Minister’s notice for a special sitting of Parliament to remove the Rulers’ immunity from the law.
The Dewan Rakyat will meet on January 18 and 19 and the Dewan Negara on January 20 to debate the 1993 Constitution Amendment Bill.
I do not know whether in his notice, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, had informed the Speaker that the Government is seeking the consent of the Conference of the Rulers to the 1993 Constitution Amendment Bill and the assurance that such consent would be obtained before the Dewan Rakyat sits on January 18.
If the Prime Minister had not given this assurance to the Speaker, then Tan Sri Zahir should reply to the Prime Minister to ask for such an assurance, or the Speaker would be acting most improperly and even unconstitutionally in sending out notice for the summoning of special sittings of Parliament for the passage of the 1993 Constitution Amendment Bill.
Article 38 (4) of the Federal Constitution is very plain and straight-forward, requiring the consent of the Conference of Rulers to be obtained before any Constitution Amendment Bill affecting the privileges, position, honours and dignities of the Rulers could be passed by Parliament.
Article 38 (4) of the Federal Constitution reads:
“38 (4). No law directly affecting the privileges, position, honours or dignities of the Rulers shall be passed without the consent of the Conference of Rulers.”
Everybody, from the Prime Minister downwards, have publicly admitted that the 1993 Constitution Amendment Bill to remove the immunity of Rulers under the law falls directly under Article 38 (4).
This means that before the 1993 Constitution Amendment Bill could be passed by Parliament, it must first secure the consent of the Conference of Rulers first.
This was the position of the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talib, in his first public pronouncement on the effect and meaning of Article 38 (4) on December 11, and this was why he publicly said that he would advise the Government to obtain the consent of the Conference of Rulers first before amending the Federal Constitution.
In Malaysia, it is not the Attorney-General who gives legal and constitutional advice to the Prime Minister, but the Prime Minister who advises the Attorney-General what legal and constitutional advice to render
The Attorney-General’s position was contradicted by the Prime Minister, who maintained that there was no necessity to get the consent of the Conference of Rulers before tabling the constitutional amendments in Parliament, ‘because the end result is the same.”
Dr. Mahathir said: “The Attorney-General’s opinion is the same as ours. It is just the case of the cart before the horse or horse before the cart.”
Dr. Mahathir must be the only person in the country who could find that the Attorney-General’s opinion on Dec.11 that the consent of the Conference of Rulers must be obtained first before the amendments could be tabled in Parliament is the same as his, which is that the consent of the Conference of Rulers could be obtained later.
Dr. Mahathir does not seem to realise that putting the cart before the horse and putting the horsebefore the cart are two different operations. When you put the horse before the cart, the cart can move forward; but when you put the cart before the horse, the cart will not be able to move at all!
This must be the first time in Malaysian constitutional history where the Attorney-General’s legal opinion and advice on the Constitution had been rejected by the Government.
What is shocking is that Tan Sri Abu Talib seemed to have come around to the viewpoint of Dr. Mahathir on the meaning and effect of Article 38 (4), as when Tan Sri Abu Talib said two days ago that he was in the midst of drafting the constitutional amendments, he appeared very ambivalent about the legal stand he announced on Dec. 11.
It would seem that in Malaysia, it is not the Attorney-General who gives the Prime Minister legal and constitutional advice, but vice versa – the Prime Minister who advises the Attorney-General what legal and constitutional advice to render!
This makes a mockery of the office of Attorney-General, taking the subversion of the doctrine of separation of powers in the Malaysian system of parliamentary democracy to an extreme unparalleled in Malaysian history.
DAP calls on the Government to abide by the Constitution and even to postpone the special Parliamentary sittings in January so as to seek the consent of the Conference of Rulers first before presenting the Constitution Amendment Bill to Parliament to remove the immunity of Rulers.
The DAP had expressed its support, both in Parliament particularly during the motion on December 10 and outside , for the amendment of the Constitution as in a constitutional monarchy in a parliamentary democracy, no Ruler can be above the law to have the power to kill, maim or beat up any person.
It is imperative however that any such amendment to remove the immunity of the Rulers under the law should be done in full accordance with the spirit and intent of the Constitution and the law.
DAP will support Constitution Amendment so that no Ruler will be above the law to kill, maim or beat up any person, but will oppose any amendment which will undermine the position of the Rulers or lead to their abolition
There maybe another reason why the special Parliamentary sittings of Dewan Rakyat on January 18 and 19 and the Dewan Negara on January 20 should be postponed – apart from securing the necessary consent from the Conference of Rulers first.
This is to allow MPs and the public ample time to study the contents and implications of the 1993 Constitution Amendment Bill, especially as there are apprehensions and fears that it could be used as the wedge by the UMNO leadership to undermine the position of the Rulers.
The DAP wants to make it very clear that while we will support any Constitutional amendment to remove the immunity of Rulers so that no Ruler is above to law to kill , maim or beat up any person, we will not support any constitutional amendment which will undermine the position of the Rulers or lead to their abolition.
1993 Constitution Amendment Bill should be made public 21 days before Parliamentary debate to allow MPs and the public ample time to study and discuss its contents and implications
It is precisely because of the fears and apprehensions as to whether the 1993 Constitution Amendment Bill would be used as a wedge by the UMNO leadership to undermine the Rulers that MPs and the public, as well as the Rulers, should be given ample time to study and discuss its contents and implications.
DAP proposes that the 1993 Constitution Amendment Bill should be made public 21 days before Parliamentary debate, and if this is not possible for the parliamentary sittings fixed for January 18 – 20, then the parliamentary sittings should be deferred by another month to the middle of February.
The fears and apprehensions as to whether the 1993 Constitution Amendment Bill would undermine and even destroy the position of the Rulers are real because of the background and history of the present UMNO leadership.
Ten years ago, the 1993 Constitution Amendment Bill precipitated a constitutional crisis, and if the 1993 Constitution Amendment Bill is not handled with care and strictly in accordance with constitutional propriety, another major constitutional crisis could be in the making.
Malaysians must be united by the common purpose to establish the important principle that no one, including the political leadership in government, is above the law and must be accountable to the people
While a constitutional amendment to ensure that no Ruler can be above the law to kill, maim or beat up any person has general public support, what is worrying and disturbing is whether the country is heading towards a direction where one form of immunity from the law is being exchanged for another, as certain political leaders have become so entrenched and powerful that they have virtually risen above the law.
For instance, there is no way to hold the Government to account for its misuse and abuses of power, such as the Internal Security Act to detain critics and opponents of the administration indefinitely without trial, or the Printing Presses and Publications Act to suppress press freedom as withdrawing 25-year-old KDN for the Rocket from circulation to the public, or the Land Acquisition Act which excluded government decisions from judicial reviews.
There is also no effective remedy to prevent the independence and integrity of the Election Commission as provided for in the Federal Constitution from being violated by political interference by the government of the day, whether in the registration of voters, the redelineation of electoral constituencies or the conduct of a fair, honest and free general elections.
The rampant corruption and abuses of power in high political places in Malaysia, coupled with the inability of the Anti-Corruption Agency to check corrupt practices, abuses of power and criminal breach of trust among the ‘high and mighty’ in the country, raises the as to whether the people are merely exchanging one form of immunity from the law for another.
This is why it is essential that all Malaysians must be united by one common purpose, to establish the important principle that one one, including the political leadership in government is above the law and must be accountable to the people.
Is Samy Vellu ‘above the law’ where he could declare the Finance Minister wrong and the ACA powerless against him in the MAIKA Telekom shares hijacking scandal?
I must admit that at one time, I had virtually lost all confidence in the Anti-Corruption Agency investigations into the $130 million MAIKA Telekom shares hijacking scandal.
It is not that I was suspended from attending Parliament for eight months for exposing the MAIKA Telekom shares hijacking scandal, but because of the spectacle of the MIC President and Minister for Energy, Posts and Telecommunications, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, acting as if he is ‘above the law’ when he could declare with impunity that the Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, as being wrong in telling Parliament that the 10 million Telekom shares were allocated to MAIKA Holdings and not to MIC, and in his public boast that the ACA is powerless as it had no case against him.
However, a press report three days ago quoting an ACA spokesman as saying that the ACA would be interviewing the Minister of Finance, Anwar Ibrahim, and his predecessor, Tun Daim Zainuddin, and Finance Ministry officials in the final phase of its investigations, still laves the subject open whether Samy Vellu is above the law.
DAP calls for the full restoration of the parliamentary immunity of MPs
If Malaysians want to establish the important principle that no one is above the law, including the political leadership in government, then all the laws of the country should be reviewed to introduce the principle of accountability, responsibility and transparency, and repressive laws like the Internal Security Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Acts and the four emergency proclamations in the country should be repealed.
Furthermore, the Constitution and the laws should be amended to fully restore to MPs their parliamentary immunity, which were curtailed in the 1971 Constitution Amendment.
DAP to file action against the Election Commission next week to challenge the legality and constitutionality of its review of redelineation of electoral constituencies
The DAP will file action against the Election Commission next week to challenge the legality and constitutionality of its review of the redelineation of parliamentary and state assembly constituencies.
In its public notice dated Nov. 19, which was gazetted and appeared in two national newspapers on November 26, the Election Commission announced the result of its review of the parliamentary and state assembly constituencies under Article 113(2) of the Federal Constitution.
Under Article 113(2), the Election Commission is under a constitutional prohibition whereby it could not begin such a review until there is a lapse of at least eight years from the previous review.
As the previous review of redelineation of the electoral constituencies was on November 8, 1984, this means that the Election Commission is constitutionally prohibited from beginning any review until November 8, 1992.
However, by November 10, 1992, the Election Commission had finalised the boundaries, maps and electoral districts for the delimitation of 165 parliamentary and 452 state assembly constituencies for the whole country, except Sarawak.
As November 8, 1992 is a Sunday, this means that the Election Commission took only 24 hours to complete its review of redelineation of 165 parliamentary and 452 state assembly seats throughout the country, except for Sarawak.
The Election Commission should apply to get into the Guinness Book of Records, for completing the redelineation of 165 parliamentary and 452 state assembly seats in 24 hours – which must be the fastest in the world. This is clearly impossible, as it would be impossible for the various State Election Offices just to send their latest data to the Election Commission Headquarters in 24 hours.
The only explanation is that the Election Commission had started its review well before the lapse of the eight years provided for in the Constitution, which makes the review and its recommendations unconstitutional and invalid.
It is clear that the Election Commission had been compelled to make its recommendations in accordance with an UMNO masterplan presented to the Election Commission well before the expiry of the eighty-year lapse from the previous review.
There are other objections to the Election Commission’s review of the redelineation of electoral constituencies, like the violation of the democratic principle of ‘one-man one-vote’ and providing for a greater rural weightage for Penang, the most urbanised state in the country, than even Trengganu, Johore or Negri Sembilan.
Although the DAP has decided to take the Election Commission to court to challenge the legality and constitutionality of its review of the redelineation of the electoral constituencies, all DAP states and branches, as well as the voters, should exercise their constitutional right to object to the undemocratic review and to demand public inquiries to be held by the Election Commission.
Under the Federal Constitution, any 100 registered voters, can submit an objection to the Election Commission and demand a public inquiry of their views to be held. However, they must submit their objections by before December 25.
DAPSY has come of age and is poised to play a leading role in the political struggle for democracy, human rights and justice in Malaysia in the 1990s
I want to end by commending the DAPSY National Executive Committee for its success in organising DAPSY into a national movement with 40 DAPSY divisions in the country.
DAPSY has come of age and is poised to play a leading role in the political struggle for democracy, human rights and justice in Malaysia in the 1990s.
The present DAPSY national leadership includes five DAP MPs and six State Assemblymen, and I am sure that this representation would increase in the next general elections, which could be held from 12 to 18 months’ time.