What I had predicted is coming to pass – flouting of parliamentary tradition and conventions to stack and answer all parliamentary questions about Najib’s RM2.6 billion “donation” on the last day

What I had predicted last week is coming to pass – that the UMNO/BN government would flout parliamentary tradition and conventions to stack all parliamentary questions about Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s RM2.6 billion “donation” in the current 25-day budget meeting of Parliament and answer them in “one go”, not allowing the subject to be pursued further even if MPs are completely dissatisfied with a “tai chi” non-answer.

This was my reaction to the bad, undesirable and unacceptable parliamentary precedent set by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Azalina Othman, on the first day of the current meeting on Oct. 19, refusing to answer questions on the RM2.6 billion “donation” issue by DAP MPs Lim Guan Eng (Bagan) and Lim Lip Eng (Segambut) on the ground that the government will answer questions about the RM2.6 billion “donation” and other relations questions on an undetermined date of the present meeting.

Deploring such a new-fangled practice as undermining an important principle of parliamentary control over the Executive, I asked whether this would mean that the question would be answered on the last day of the 25-day parliamentary meeting on Dec. 3, allowing MPs no room or opportunity to pursue the question if the answer was totally unsatisfactory?

Furthermore, whether the “bad, undesirable and unacceptable” parliamentary practice would be “set a disastrous precedent for Ministers to evade and avoid answering parliamentary questions posed by Members of Parliament by pushing the questions to the very last day with totally unsatisfactory and unacceptable answers”?

Azalina admitted this when she told the media today that Najib or another Minister would explain on the last day of the Parliamentary meeting on Dec. 3 the controversial RM2.6 billion donation that went into Najib’s bank accounts.

It is not use Azalina holding the parliamentary Standing Orders claiming that the rules do not specify that an answer must be given on the day a parliamentary question is asked.

The Standing Orders do not empower a Minister to avoid or evade an answer, and even more important, it has become the Parliamentary tradition and convention in Malaysia for 56 years from 1959 to 2015 for a Minister to answer question when asked, and not to push it to a later date or to the very last day of a Parliamentary meeting.

It is shocking that at a time when the Speaker is talking about parliamentary reforms to make Parliament may effective and contemporaneous, we are seeing Ministers doing the very opposite – making Parliament even less competent and efficient in holding the Executive to parliamentary account.

Why is Najib’s RM2.6 billion “donation” causing such havoc in the whole system of governance, not only in the Cabinet and Executive, the various government agencies and now in Parliament?

It would appear that Najib and the Cabinet have a lot to hide about the RM2.6 billion “donation” and the RM50 billion 1MDB twin mega-scandals, and the entire system of good governance and checks-and-balance to ensure meaningful parliamentary control of the Executive are being turned upside down to achieve their ulterior objective of avoiding full accountability on these twin mega scandals.

Will there be any UMNO/BN MP who would have the conscience and courage to stand up with Opposition MPs to oppose such systematic violation of parliamentary traditions and rights?

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah