Welcome for Abdullah’s
announcement of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Lingam Tape scandal
conditional as there is disturbing indication that it will be a very
restricted inquiry denied the task to resolve long-standing crisis of
confidence in independence and integrity of judiciary
by Lim Kit Siang
The welcome for the Prime
Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s announcement of a Royal
Commission of Inquiry into Lingam Tape scandal will have to be conditional
as there is disturbing indication that it will be a very restricted and
circumscribed inquiry denied the task to resolve the long-standing
national and international crisis of confidence in the independence and
integrity of the judiciary which had gone from bad to worse for nearly two
It is most unusual and not a very good sign that Abdullah’s announcement
of a royal commission came solely from a Bernama report instead of a
proper media conference before a battery of local and foreign journalists.
Abdullah had stumbled from one faux pax to another in the mishandling of
the Lingam Tape scandal, taking two full months to arrive at the decision
to establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry, when such a decision should
have been made right from the very beginning when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim
made public the first eight minutes of the 14-minute Lingam Tape if the
Prime Minister had been serious with his pledges of integrity and a
trustworthy government, two of the ten principles of Islam Hadhari.
Abdullah said in the Bernama report that the Cabinet had decided at its
last meeting on Wednesday to set up the royal commission and the Cabinet
will decide next Wednesday on the commission’s terms of reference. The
members of the royal commission will be determined after its terms of
reference were finalized.
Something is clearly amiss, which does not reflect well on the Cabinet
with regard to the professionalism, competence or high standards of the
Cabinet decision-making process.
For 55 hours after the Cabinet meeting, i.e. Wednesday to Friday until the
Bernama report released at 7.01 pm yesterday, Malaysians were told that
every Cabinet Minister would be provided with a copy of the Haidar Report
to study so that the Cabinet next Wednesday can decide whether a Royal
Commission should be established.
If the Cabinet had already taken the decision last Wednesday to establish
a Royal Commission – as disclosed by Abdullah yesterday - then what is the
purpose of giving all Cabinet Ministers a week’s homework to read the
In fact, what is the purpose of setting up a three-man Ministerial
Committee, comprising three senior Cabinet Ministers, Minister in the
Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, Home Affairs Minister
Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad and Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister,
Datuk Seri Dr. Rais Yatim to give the “legal perspective” – which, in any
event, should be before and not after the decision to set up a Royal
I had been baffled when Nazri had told the press on Thursday that the
three ministers tasked with looking into the Haidar Report will not meet,
and neither will they consult or correlate their findings before
Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting, wondering how this Nazri Ministerial
Committee was going to function or operate. Now, I understand, as there is
nothing for it to function, so nothing to meet when the Cabinet has
already decided to establish a Royal Commission!
The MCA Youth was extraordinarily courageous yesterday when after its 14th
MCA Youth Central Committee yesterday, the MCA Youth leader, Datuk Liow
Tiong Lai summoned a press conference to call for a Royal Commission of
Inquiry into the Lingam Tape. But this was apparently two days after the
Cabinet had decided to set up such a Royal Commission! What courage!
The question that pops up immediately is why the Prime Minister has not
made public the Haidar Panel Report when the Cabinet has already made the
decision to set up a Royal Commission.
I am doubly concerned however whether the Royal Commission that Abdullah
has in mind will be a serious response from the government to get to the
root of the Lingam Tape scandal and the important corollary issue of the
long-standing crisis of confidence in the independence and integrity of
the judiciary, or a charade just to try to shut up rising public clamor
for government action on the Lingam Tape scandal.
My first concern stemmed from a comment by Nazri after Abdullah’s
announcement of a Royal Commission reported by Utusan Malaysia, where he
said: “Penubuhan suruhanjaya ini tidak ada kaitan dengan persoalan mahu
mengembalikan kredibiliti badan kehakiman. Sebaliknya, penubuhan
suruhanjaya ini adalah cara bagi mengenal pasti dan mengambil tindakan
terhadap mana-mana pihak yang didapati bersalah.”
Nazri cannot be more wrong. The core objective of the Royal Commission of
Inquiry into the Lingam Tape must be to restore public confidence in the
judiciary. If this is not the overriding agenda, then why have a Royal
Commission of Inquiry at all?
If the Royal Commission is to be stopped from probing into the deep-seated
causes for the crisis of judiciary which had rocked the country for close
to two decades, and which had again been brought to national and global
limelight by the Lingam Tape, and to make recommendations for the
immediate and effective restoration of national and international
confidence in the independence and integrity of the judiciary, then I must
forewarn the Prime Minister that such a Royal Commission of Inquiry would
be a complete let-down, utterly useless and totally unacceptable.
This gives rise to my second concern. If its terms of reference are going
to be so restrictive and unacceptable, then it is unlikely that public
hopes and expectations of credible, legitimate and eminent Malaysians
being appointed as Commissioners would be met.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman