Speech by Lim Kit Siang at the opening of the Perak DAP State Convention at Heritage Hotel, Ipoh on Sunday, 14th December 2008 at 11am: 

MACC and JAC Bills – postpone second reading from four to six weeks to allow fuller study and greater consensus by concerned stakeholders  

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi wants to fulfill three reform pledges on anti-corruption, restore the independence of the judiciary and establish an efficient and professional world-class police service before he steps down from office next March.

Tomorrow, Parliament is slated to start debate on the first of two of these reforms, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Bill and the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) Bill.

DAP, just like the other component parties in Pakatan Rakyat, would want to give as much support as possible to ensure the accomplishment of these three reforms. However, we cannot give blanket support or endorse proposals which are inimical to these reform objectives.

MPs saw the MACC and the JAC Bills only on Wednesday and there have been increasing concerns and reservations about the provisions in these two Bills as to whether they would be able to further the objectives of having a truly independent anti-corruption body to spearhead an all-out war against corruption and the restoration of the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary.

I have given notice to move five amendments to the MACC to provide greater fire-power in the battle against corruption, strengthen the independence of the MACC from the Executive and reinforce the oversight powers of Parliament.

For instance, I am proposing that we should emulate the Hong Kong anti-corruption law by making it an offence per se for a public officer to have possession of unexplained property, viz: new Section 16A on “Possession of unexplained property”:

(1) Any person who, being or having been the officer of a public body:

(a) maintains a standard of living above that which is commensurate with his present or past official emoluments; or

(b) is in control of pecuniary resources or property disproportionate to his present or past official emoluments,
shall, unless he gives a satisfactory explanation to the court as to how he was able to maintain such a standard of living or how such pecuniary resources or property came under his control, be guilty of an offence.

I am also proposing amendments to Sections 5 and 58 of the Bill to make it very clear that the Chief Commissioner of the MACC shall have all the powers of a Deputy Public Prosecutor under the Criminal Procedure Code and that a prosecution for an offence under the Act shall not be instituted except by or with the consent of the Chief Commissioner, instead of the Public Prosecutor as provided in the Bill.

I also propose that one of the five check-and-balance bodies for the MACC should be a Parliamentary Committee, whose membership should be appointed by Parliament rather than by the Prime Minister and that such a committee should be headed by an Opposition MP.

These are not the only concerns about the defects of the MACC Bill. Former Court of Appeal judge Datuk Shaikh Daud Shaikh Mohd Ismai, in an interview in New Sunday Times, have pointed to reservations in other provisions in the MACC Bill, in particular with regard to Sections 47 on “Legal obligation to give information”, Section 53 on “Admissibility of statements by accused persons” and Section 62 on “Defence statement” which greatly undermine the rights of an accused charged with corruption.

The JAC Bill also raises a hosts of questions and concerns, including the strong objection that (i) the Prime Minister can disregard the recommendations of the JAC; and (ii) the appointment procedure of judges in the new bill violates the Federal Constitution, particularly with regard to the appointment of judges for Sabah and Sarawak in Articles 122B and 161E(2).

Furthermore, there is the question as to why the MACC and JAC are not being created by way of constitutional amendments so that they are given constitutional status and importance.

These are all very weighty issues and the second reading of the MACC and JAC Bills should not be rushed through next week but should be deferred for four to six weeks till mid-January or early-February to allow for fuller study and greater consensus by all concerned stakeholders.

I agree that the MACC and JAC Bills should be passed by Parliament before Abdullah steps down as Prime Minister in March. This deadline can still be met with the second reading and passage of the two Bills by Parliament deferred for four to six weeks.

For this reason, I call on the Prime Minister to stand down the second reading of the MACC Bill when Parliament meets tomorrow, and this should apply to the JAC Bill as well. There are other government bills for Parliament to debate for next week’s Parliament.

* Lim Kit Siang,  DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor