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  Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Monday, 21st April 2008: 

Abdullah beginning to answer my first question for question time for the new Parliament next Wednesday – the ten priority reforms he will implement to demonstrate that he has heard the voices of the people in the March 8, 2008 “political tsunami”

It has become the practice for Cabinet Ministers to pre-empt questions which MPs have given notice in the forthcoming parliamentary meeting by giving answers before the questions are actually asked on the dates they are listed.

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, has proved that he is no exception and is beginning to answer my first question for question time in the 12th Parliament beginning next Wednesday, which asked him “to outline the top ten priority reform measures which his government will implement in the next 12 months to demonstrate that he has heard the voices of the people in the March 8, 2008 ‘political tsunami’”.

This morning, Abdullah announced that the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) will be made a full-fledged commission by year-end and will be answerable to Parliament.

He said this was one of the four key reform initiatives that would be carried out by the government in the move to address the public concerns on corruption in the country.

The commission's workforce would be increased to 5,000 officers over a period of five years and the government would also introduce legislation to provide a comprehensive protection for whistle blowers and witnesses in corruption cases.

Furthermore, the government would also take immediate steps to improve the public procurement process through measures targeted at addressing specific problems in the system.

Last Thursday, Abdullah announced measures towards judicial reforms, viz:

Ex-gratia payment for “the pain and loss” suffered by the late Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader and Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawanteh and their families, Tun Salleh Abas, Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin, Tan Sri Wan Hamzah Mohamed Salleh and Datuk George Seah in the 1988 Judicial Crisis.

A Judicial Appointments Commission;

Review of the judiciary’s terms of service and remuneration to ensure that the Bench can attract and retain the very best of the nation’s talent.

As the “proof of the pudding is in the eating”, more details are needed before an informed judgment can be made of the reform measures concerned.

Although belated, reform measures to restore public confidence in the efficacy, efficiency, independence, impartiality and credibility of national institutions whether judiciary or the anti-corruption agency are welcome as they have been long-awaited by the people.

Yesterday, I had told some reporters that I was astonished at the Prime Minister’s confirmation that he was studying a proposal by the ACA for it to become more independent.

This was clearly putting the cart before the horse as it is the Prime Minister and Cabinet who should take the policy decision that they have heard the voices of the people in the March 8 “political tsunami” and want an anti-corruption agency which is completely independent of the government, answerable only to Parliament , followed by directives to the various agencies such as the ACA and the Attorney-General’s Chambers to draft the necessary legislation based on best international practices like the Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) to implement such a policy decision.

The government’s failure in the fight against corruption in the past four years, highlighted by the ACA’s inability to net a single one of the 18 “sharks” targetted at the beginning of the Abdullah premiership and the six-point plunge in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index rankings from No. 37 in 2003 to No. 43 last year, is an undeniable and indisputable fact.

I am glad that 24 hours after my comment, the Prime Minister has committed himself to a policy position on an independent anti-corruption agency.

Malaysians will not want a new anti-corruption commission which purports to be independent in name only but not in fact in spearheading the fight against corruption to restore integrity in the nation’s public life – becoming a second Suhakam which is tasked to be an independent body to protect and promote human rights but is completely unable to do so without the necessary powers and wherewithal to carry out such a human rights mandate.

Furthermore, is Abdullah prepared to fully respond to the March 8 “political tsunami” and initiate far-reaching national reforms including the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) by tabling such a bill in the first meeting of Parliament and to free the Malaysian mass media from the shackles of the Printing Presses and Publications Act?

* Lim Kit Siang, MP for Ipoh Timor & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman


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