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The first thing the Barisan Nasional Ministerial Whips Panel should consider when it meets tomorrow is whether it has the locus standi and whether it  is proper and ethical for it to inquire into the  “close-one-eye” scandal involving Jasin MP Said


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

, Wednesday) : The Jasin Member of Parliament Datuk Mohd Said Yusuf will be hauled up before a four-Minister Barisan Nasional Whips Panel tomorrow  to explain his “close-one-eye” scandal which rocked  and shamed Parliament and brought the nation into international disrepute and odium.


The BN Whips Panel, headed by  BN Whip, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, comprised the three BN deputy whips – Transport Minister Datuk Chan Kong Choy, Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz.


It is most shocking that while embroiled in the “close-one-eye” scandal where Said openly admitted to serious conflicts-of-interest and breach of parliamentary privileges in interceding with the Malacca Customs and Excise Department over the illegal import of sawn timber from Indonesia on behalf of his own company, the MP for Jasin was allowed to campaign for the Barisan Nasional in the recent Sarawak state general elections – demonstrating that the Sarawak Barisan Nasional leadership is just incapable of distinguishing between right from wrong, ethical from unethical.


Said must bear some responsibility for the poor showing of the Barisan Nasional candidates in Saturday’s Sarawak polls, where there was a general drop of voter support for the Barisan Nasional candidates  - even among Malay and Dayak areas and not just in the Chinese-majority constituencies where SUPP lost eight of the 19 seats it contested.


It is not just the SUPP Deputy Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. George Chan who had his majority slashed, even the Chief Minister Tan Sri  Abdul Taib Mahmud and the other  Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu suffered drastic reduction in  their majorities.


How can the Sarawak Barisan Nasional expect to command the confidence of the people when it became evident  that Sarawak  BN leaders have lost the ability to tell right from wrong to the extent that a Member of Parliament who had become the  symbol of parliamentary scandal because of his conflicts-of-interest and breaches-of-privilege could be regarded as a ”precious asset” in the Sarawak general election campaign?


It is this increasing inability to distinguish right from wrong, proper from improper, ethical from unethical, which have disturbed  thinking Malaysians as  it raises the fundamental question as to how a National Integrity Plan can ever succeed when there is  such primitive understanding of what is right and wrong among  the top BN government leaders of the day.


It is  most improper and unethical  for the  Cabinet to form a  four-Minister panel to investigate Said over  the “close-one-eye” scandal, blurring important distinctions between government and party as well among the  party, government  and parliament.


The first thing the Barisan Nasional Ministerial Whips Panel should consider when it meets tomorrow is whether it has the locus standi and whether it  is proper and ethical for it to inquire into the  “close-one-eye” scandal involving Jasin MP Said.


These are among the questions that the Panel should address:


Firstly, why should the Cabinet appoint an inquiry committee into Said’s “close-one-eye” scandal when it is strictly a question of whether he had been guilty of multiple breaches of privileges because of his conflict-of-interest position – a matter which should be decided solely by the Parliamentary Committee of Privileges.


If the purpose of the Whips Panel is to decide whether Said had violated Barisan Nasional discipline, then the decision on the establishment and composition of the Inquiry Panel should be made by the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council and not the Cabinet.  Or is there no difference or distinction between the Cabinet and the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council and vice versa?


Secondly, why should four Ministers be appointed to preside over an inquiry concerning  the conduct of an MP – which will only undermine the role,  function and effectiveness of parliamentary backbenchers. One of the tasks of an MP is to hold the Government and the Ministers to account, to subject them to intense scrutiny and even merciless criticism if the Ministers fail to live up to their responsibilities. 


With four Ministers monopolizing the Whips Panel to determine the conduct and future of backbench MPs, the message will be very clear – that MPs are subordinate and subservient to Ministers which can only undermine the utility and effectiveness of parliamentary backbenchers.  This will further blur the important distinctions among the party, government and Parliament, which can only cause a major setback to assert the independence of MPs Executive dominance and control.

Thirdly, has the four-Minister Whip Panel any locus standi to grill Said over the “close-one-eye” scandal?  One of the reasons which Nazri had given as to  why Said should not be referred to the Committee of Privileges is  that the “close-one-eye” scandal happened outside the four walls of Parliament and therefore outside the cognizance and jurisdiction of the Committee of Privileges.


If Nazri is right, then the four-Minister BN  Whip Panel has no locus standi whatsoever to hold any hearing to grill Said, as the function of a Whip is to ensure party discipline inside Parliament and has no role and function to deal with matters happening outside the four walls of Parliament.


The four-Minister BN Whip Panel should give these questions serious consideration before summoning Said to submit to any interrogation – and if necessary, should seek the advice of legal and parliamentary practice experts.


What the Whip Panel should decide tomorrow is to take the right and correct decision that the Said “close-one-eye” scandal concerns parliamentary privilege and dignity and should be dealt with by the Committee of Privileges. 


The Panel should take action to immediately refer Said to the Committee of Privileges under the Standing Orders which will permit the Committee of Privileges to convene immediate meetings and hearings in time to submit its report to Parliament when it reconvenes on June 26.


Secondly, the Whip Panel should be fully cognizant that any Whip directive that Barisan Nasional MPs “cannot support Opposition motions, right or wrong, and that they cannot vote according to their conscience” is highly undemocratic and most indefensible for a nation which aspires to acquire “first world mentality” for Malaysia to become a fully-develop nation in 2020.


For this reason, the Whip Panel should recommend the abolition of such an obsolete and fourth-world  Whip Rule and to substitute instead a  “smart” Whip Rule taking into account both  the need to impose discipline with regard to party policies and programme while allowing flexibility for MPs to vote according to conscience in all other matters where there is no need for the party to take a stand or where the party has not taken a stand.


*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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