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Should all members of the
Parliamentary Select Committee on Integrity follow Bernard’s example and
resign if the Select Committee cannot be effective and play any meaningful
role in the National Integrity Plan to promote public integrity and push
back the rising tide of corruption?
(Parliament, Thursday) : Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Tan Sri Bernard Dompok has dropped a bombshell with his sudden and shock resignation as Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Integrity (PSCI) yesterday.
Yesterday at 5.23 pm, I received a faxed letter from Bernard on his resignation, which reads:
“15 Mei 2007
YB Tuan Lim Kit Siang
Ahli Parlimen Kawasan Ipoh Timur
Jawatankuasa Pilihan Khas Dewan Rakyat Mengenai Integrity
Dengan rendah hati, saya dengan ini ingin memaklumkan kepada Yang Berhormat bahawa saya telah membuat keputusan untuk meletak jawatan daripada Jawatankuasa Pilihan Khas Dewan Rakyat Mengenai Integrity.
Saya rasa sebagai salah seorang ahli Kabinet, saya mungkin tidak dapat berlaku adil terhadap tanggungjawab yang dimandatkan oleh Parlimen kepada Jawatankuasa. Saya sudah memberitahu keputusan saya ini kepada Yang di Pertua Dewan Rakyat.
Saya ingin mengambil kesempatan ini untuk mengucapkan terima kasih yang tidak terhingga kepada Yang Berhormat atas kerjasama penuh yang telah anda berikan kepada saya semasa saya menjadi pengerusi Jawatankuasa itu.
(Tan Sri Bernard Dompok)”
Earlier at 4.40 p.m. Bernard had informed me by phone that he had tendered his resignation as Chairman of the PSCI.
Bernard’s shock resignation as PSCI Chairman yesterday must be regarded as a red-light warning that the national integrity and anti-corruption campaign of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has run aground after 42 months.
Bernard’s resignation as PSCI chairman is not a matter which merely concerns him, because of his invidious and unenviable position of chairing the parliamentary select committee on integrity while being a Cabinet Minister.
This mix-up of the separate executive and parliamentary roles undermining the doctrine of the separation of powers of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary has created complex and grave conflict situations, as the role of parliamentary select committees is to present viewpoints and proposals which are independent and distinct from those of the Executive for consideration and adoption by the Cabinet.
This is why the situation of Cabinet Ministers chairing parliamentary select committees is completely unheard-of in other Commonwealth parliaments, as it creates inherent conflicts and contradictions which has resulted in situations like Bernard’s resignation and statement: “I feel that as a member of the Cabinet I may not be able to do justice to the tasks assigned to the committee by Parliament”.
After the 2004 general election, I had met the Prime Minister twice to urge him to agree to the adoption of a general select committee system as an important feature of parliamentary reform to transform the Malaysian Parliament into a First World Parliament.
In the event, only three parliamentary select committees had been set up which had functioned, i.e. on Criminal Procedure Code and Penal Code Amendment Bill, Unity and National Service and the third one on Integrity. A fourth parliamentary select committee to draft a code of ethics and integrity for MPs headed by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had been set up in December last year but it had not even held its first meeting after half a year.
A Parliamentary Select Committee system with Ministers as Chairmen can only work efficaciously if the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are fully committed to make such a hybrid system work despite its inherent problems and contradictions between the executive and parliamentary functions.
But the Prime Minister and the Cabinet lack the political will to give the PSCI full support to ensure it could be really meaningful and not just be a “windrow-dressing” about national integrity and anti-corruption efforts in the country.
That this is the sad case can be seen from the following self-explanatory letter which I had sent to Bernard on 13th February this year:
“The National Integrity Plan envisaged all Ministries, government institutions, departments and agencies will enhance the practice of good governance, modernize their administration and enhance the effectiveness of the public delivery system all-the-year-round.
In the first Cabinet meeting of YAB Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as Prime Minister on 5th November 2003, the Prime Minister directed every Minister to set up a task force to cut red tape, fight corruption and deliver quality public service.
The Parliamentary Select Committee on Integrity should call up every Ministry, government department, agency and institution to give a progress report on public service reform, modernization and enhancement of public service delivery programme in the past three years.
In view of current public interest issues and concerns, I will like to suggest that priorities be given for the summoning of Prisons, Police and Public Works departments.
News report quoting you as saying that the seven-point plunge from 37th to 44th position in the past three years in Malaysia’s ranking of Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) is “not too bad” when the target is at least 30th position next year will cast an adverse reflection on the Parliamentary Select Committee on Integrity.
As Feb. 26 and 27 have been fixed for the next meeting of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Integrity, a clear position must be taken that this does not represent the stand or position of the Select Committee. I propose to ask the Select Committee to formally record its shock and concern at the continuous backsliding of Malaysia’s TI CPI in the past three years, which represents a failure and setback for the country’s efforts to promote integrity and combat corruption.”
The lack of support by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet for the PSCI could be discerned from the immediate reason for Bernard’s resignation - the boycott of the PSCI by the Director-General and top officers of the National Registration Department for its hearing last Tuesday into the protracted and grave problem of the issuance of false identity cards in Sabah – what had variously been termed as “Project False I/Cs” or “Project Mahathir”.
It is still to be tested whether the PSCI has the powers to summon and subpoena members of the public as witnesses to its hearings, but when public servants could defy with total impunity as to boycott the PSCI hearings, clearly with the support of the highest authorities in the government, it makes a total mockery of the PSCI, its members and Chairman who is also Cabinet Minister.
It also makes a total mockery of the recent statement by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak that “fighting corruption remains a national mission and the Government is all out to eradicate graft”.
This is what Najib said in his key-note address on the third anniversary of the National Integrity Plan (NIP) and Integrity Institute of Malaysia last month:
“Some people might be quick to say that the Government is not serious in fighting corruption or that the Prime Minister is the only person speaking on this subject.
“But let me remind every one that this is not just the agenda of the Prime Minister. The Cabinet is firmly behind him on this.”
Bernard’s resignation as PSCI Chairman has proved Najib wrong!
The question all remaining PSCI members should wrestle with is - Should they all follow Bernard’s example and resign if the PSCI cannot be effective and play any meaningful role in the National Integrity Plan to promote public integrity and push back the rising tide of corruption?
The Prime Minister should meet with all the members of the PSCI to give concrete assurance that he and the Cabinet will give full backing to the PSCI to carry out its mandate and terms of reference to promote integrity and roll back the rising tide of corruption in the country and that those who in the public service who defied or boycott the PSCI hearings would be immediately disciplined – whether suspension or expulsion from public service!
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman