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As the shootout for Hulu Selangor draws near, the dirty campaign of UMNO has begun in full swing. Predictably, UMNO are not focusing on the issues of the rakyat. UMNO are focused on the only thing they know, and that is: to spread lies and misinformation.
According to The Deputy Prime Minister and his hired hands, one of the issues plaguing my candidacy is my disciplinary record, specifically of being suspended by UMNO for money politics. As a result of that, they conveniently use this to accuse me of everything under the sun: corrupt, greedy, wealthy, etc.
As always, the truth will set you free. It is perhaps something UMNO is unfamiliar with. Time and time again, they continue to underestimate the intelligence of the rakyat and try to confuse them with fiction, but the rakyat knows better.
I have defended myself from these accusations many times, but will do so again.
So here it is…
In 2001, I won the contest for the post of UMNO Division Chief for Kota Bharu. Took me three attempts and 10 years to do that but I did it.
That position left them with no choice but to field me as a candidate for March 2004 General Election. I won a hard fought contest for the Kota Bharu Parliamentary seat, although the 3 State Assembly seats in that parliamentary constituency was won by PAS. (Somewhat similar to the present situation in Hulu Selangor where the 3 State seats were won by BN in 2008, and now I am trying to win it again for PKR). I expected a more supportive reaction from UMNO considering the significance of the victory — it was the first time after 15 years of PAS rule, that BN at last won the Kota Bharu seat.
But it was not to be. They were ready to knife me again. By June 2004, there was again another contest for the UMNO Kota Bharu Division. Fortunately, I was able to retain the seat as Division Chief, uncontested.
But other positions in the party were up for grabs. During that contest , certain individuals issued complaints by way of signing false statutory declarations that I had given money to “my agent”, the late Datuk Zahari Wahab in exchange for votes, purportedly on my behalf.
On the 16th of October 2004, I was charged for money politics. I found this charge to be utterly ridiculous, because I won the seat uncontested. There was no opponent. So, how could I be charged for money politics, when there is no contest? But within UMNO, I guess anything is possible.
For the charges to have any merit, there must be a witness to support the charge of money politics. If accusations against my friend Zahari Wahab of giving money for votes had any merit, how were they certain it wasn’t for Zahari’s own campaign? At the time, Zahari himself was contesting for the Vice President of the Division. Even if it was true that Zahari had indulged in money politics, he might have done it for himself as he was the one contesting. By the time the 1st hearing came up before the UMNO Disciplinary board, Zahari Wahab had unfortunately passed away. Incidentally he too, was charged with money politics which I believe was also false.. But with his demise, the UMNO Disciplinary Board could not put forth Zahari to support their claims. They did not put forth any other witness to support these accusations, other than the false statutory declarations which I had no opportunity to challenge the maker of these statements. I described the proceedings as a sham and that upset them. They were determined to pass this judgment on me without any basis whatsoever.
It was clear that I was being framed. I challenged and questioned the system of how the Board arrived at their decision without any supporting proof or evidence.
In the end, the UMNO Disciplinary Board ruled that I was guilty of money politics. But, they were indeed willing to spare me any punishment, on the condition that I apologize to the UMNO disciplinary board for questioning their process and authority.
Under no circumstances was I ever going to apologize to the board. Any apology for my alleged actions to the board would implicitly be admitting my guilt, and I was not going to compromise on the principle of the matter and my innocence. When I refused to apologize, that was when the UMNO board suspended me for 3 years.
In 2008, when I was made a Minister, I did not wish for there to be any doubt as to my character and credibility as I undertook this important responsibility in what I consider to be a reformist Government. I wanted to clear my name of any suspicion of those charges. So, I requested the then Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) to investigate me further, to clear my name once and for all. Till today, they have not come forth with any outcome. If I was really as guilty as so they claim, why did they make me a Minister? Because the truth is, I did not do anything as claimed by my opponents in UMNO; that is why I was made a Minister.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin suggested today that I was picked as the candidate for Hulu Selangor supposedly because of my deep pockets. My lovely wife and daughter, Alysha are very excited now; they asked me where did I hide my wealth and they insist that I take them out shopping. Now, I’m in trouble!
I suggest it is best for the DPM to hold his tongue. It is certainly not befitting of a DPM to stoop so low and make such claims. If he were to make such claims, then he must stand by those statements..
I was never wealthy, unlike other UMNO Ministers. I was a Minister for only 6 months. And before that I was never a crony of any one, nor obtained any concessions or APs or even blocks of shares. In the interest of transparency, I would be prepared to disclose to the public my possessions and my so called ‘wealth’; and that of my family and my children as well, on the condition that the DPM and his colleagues in Cabinet are willing to do the same of their own possessions, of their families, of their children, and their nominees.
During my brief tenure as Minister, (Tun) Pak Lah and I suggested that Cabinet Ministers should declare their assets. To show that BN Ministers are clean and not afraid of full accountability and transparency in their dealings . Many senior ministers opposed this idea. They opposed everything good that Pak Lah wanted to do. I wonder what the DPM has to say about this now.
If he hasn’t got anything useful to add, I suggest to the DPM that we move on and address the issues I have raised for the people in Hulu Selangor. And the issues facing the country. Lets have a fair fight and see who has the support of the people!
In many of the better business books, descriptions on the most preferred quality and characteristics of a company’s CEO, tend to always stress on the importance of honesty and integrity.
While the nature of nations and businesses are vastly different, being different entities with different processes and aims, structurally they do have the similar needs for good management, efficient performance, quality output and progress. Seen in this light, certainly the nation, and all of its processes, must acquire ‘CEOs’ with the highest honesty and integrity.
Does this fact however hold true for Malaysia?
Looking at recent trends, I am inclined to believe, maybe not so. Whilst companies may need a CEO with all the finest attributes, it does not however look very necessary in Malaysia for a person to have such attributes, if one would like to become Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat or the Chairman of the Elections Commission, for example. In fact I am tempted to argue that it may not even be desirable for you to have such qualities if you wish to head such organisations in this country.
Before I elaborate, let me first confess of my excitement when Pak Lah first announced Integrity as the cornerstone of his administration a few years back. I thought this is what the country sorely needs. However unfortunately, after much fanfare and millions of Ringgit gone astray, all we have today is the Institute of Integrity and very little else. Maybe, ‘Integrity in Governance’ is not included within APCO’s Terms of Reference, perhaps that’s why….
I remember that in the good old days, JKR officers would even record the amount visitors spent on them for coffee and curry Puffs at the office canteen. In the good old days, judges were prepared for the sack but remained steadfast and true to their principles and convictions. A certain Central Bank Governor opted to resign rather than suffer the humiliation of having to take orders from politicians. Well friends, those days are long gone and it looks like as if persons of integrity may never hold the reign at any of our state institutions again.
Today if you like to remain in the helm you would have to play politics and do as what the political masters tell you to do, no complications please – integrity seems to be the hardest word.
Which explains why the Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speakers have conducted themselves in such fashion last week? The Speakers have lost control of the Dewan. Its absolute mayhem every day. The shouting matches and the wasting of hours of precious debating time is due to their lack of understanding of the role of Parliament and their own position and authority to regulate the proceedings in the House firmly and fairly. Their handling of the issues pertaining to Standing Order 36 (12) violations by MPs is shameful.
Yes members of the Dewan must not make misleading and deliberately untruthful statements. That’s the essence of Order 36. Whilst Erskine May correctly states that the rule is applicable to all members of Parliament, in terms of actual parliamentary practice based on proceedings in England and Canada and Australia, the rule not to “misled the House” is meant to ensure compliance by Ministers in Government to tell the truth and not lie to Parliament. This is what is known as Ministerial responsibility to Parliament, and the Rule “not to misled” is to ensure Ministers not to lie in Parliament. We can glean this principle by looking into the cases of John Profumo, John Biffen and the Westland Affair. If we read the British or Canadian Hansard, the reported cases involving the offence of “misleading the House” will always refer to Ministers who have lied or misled the House on the facts under their charge. Due to this demand for strict integrity in discharging one’s ministerial responsibility and accountability to the Parliament, British and Canadian Ministers must exhibit the highest sincerity and honesty while furnishing their replies to Parliamentary queries.
To translate this context within our legislative process then, as an example – should the Defence Minister state that the contract for the maintenance of our submarines amounted to RM270 million, and if other Parliamentarians can indeed prove that this figure is wrong, then the Minister concerned should rightly be referred to the Committee for action. Similarly, when at some point the Deputy Minister of Defence states that the commissions for the purchase of some submarines was in the region of RM450 million while on another occasion the Minister himself maintains that no such commissions were paid, it suggests to us that someone is possibly lying. These then are some of the prime examples where the radar of the Speakers of the Dewan should bleep loudly. Such inconsistencies in data are what that they should be interested in.
The central aspect of the Westminster system is the ability of Parliament to acquire accurate information about Government and about Ministers giving truthful and complete answers to Parliament. This is what Order 36 is meant to address. Not to punish any statements by Opposition leaders and members of Parliament for statements BN do not agree with or embarrassing to them. Not to punish different interpretations of the same facts or to punish political viewpoints. The Speaker must first rule whether the impugned statement is misleading on the face of it. Only then should he ask for a vote whether to refer or not to refer to the Privileges Committee. He must, on the facts or statements before him, decide independently and fairly whether a member has violated the rule before he takes a vote. So for instance, if he is satisfied with the explanation from YB Mahfuz that his statement APCO equals UMNO is merely an opinion then he should rule accordingly and stop the fracas. The Speaker cannot punish a member for giving an opinion. If he thinks there is some serious factual errors and made deliberately to misled the House, he must give his reasons after getting the explanation from the Member. He could ask YB Mahfuz to correct them and apologise, and that would be the end of the matter. Or if he believes there is prima facie basis for the complaints then he can bring the matter to a vote. He cannot let the majority decide whether a wrong has been committed by an Opposition member because they majority will always say yes. They always want to refer the Opposition Member to the Privileges Committee even if no wrong has been done. They always want to suspend an Opposition Member (better still if an Opposition Member joins them). If the Speaker is not willing to ensure the independence and impartiality of the Chair, then Parliament will become a dog house where yelling is the order of the day. There will be no time for debate on policies in Parliament. At this rate one wonders why should anyone be interested to be a Member of Parliament.
So Anwar Ibrahim now has to be referred to the Committee of Privileges and would probably be suspended for saying that there is similarity in the concept of One Malaysia and One Israel; and for suggesting the possibility that APCO may be responsible for these ideas? What crime or violation has he done? It is an opinion of an Opposition Leader. He gave his reasons to support his arguments and they were good, reasonable reasons. Parliament must not and cannot afford to stifle its member and punish them too, just because they have embarrassed the government. Any member is given sufficient latitude to speak on any subject without fear of civil actions by the authorities. That is what Parliamentary Privileges mean. British politicians over the ages gave their life to secure independence of Parliament from the Monarch and other ecclesiastical powers. Unfortunately our own Parliament willingly stifles its own Yang Berhormat.
If Anwar had given any factual errors, the Chair could just resolve the matter fairly by asking him to correct them. What were the findings of the Deputy Speaker when he made the decision to refer Anwar to the Committee? Was it in his findings that an error was deliberately committed by Anwar to mislead the House? There was no ruling on the facts, only an assertion that the Speaker has the power to do so. But the facts seem to stay with Anwar. We can differ and disagree perhaps only on the conclusions.
The reason the Speaker has chosen to refer Anwar to the Committee was apparently because Nazri had said so. And Nazri said so because the Cabinet said so. In any other civilized country, Nazri and the entire Cabinet would be cited for contempt of Parliament! Parliament has to make its own decision, and not dictated by the Cabinet. This is the meaning of separation of powers and the independence of Parliament. This is what the Standing Orders are for, this is what the Privileges given to Yang Berhormat are for. A Parliament with integrity cannot be seen to be shamelessly directed by the Executive, and the Cabinet Ministers. If this is the case, the Deputy Speaker then might as well dispense with the facade of the independence of the Parliament that they had spoken about and defended so vigorously back when they were backbenchers.
But you certainly cannot exercise independence and integrity if you build your career by depending on instructions with vested interests or unquestioningly taking orders, from parties with an agenda of their own, at the expense of the rakyat. How lofty positions can change us all.