Media Comment by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling
Jaya on Thursday, 24th April 2008:
Renewal of Makkal Osai welcomed – now for immediate and unconditional
release of Hindraf 5
The government’s about-turn to renew the publishing permit of Tamil
daily Makkal Osai which it banned last week is welcome as it would have
otherwise destroyed the credibility of all reform pledges of Prime
Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on the judiciary and the
The Home Minister, Datuk Seri Hamid Albar should learn the lesson of the
Makkal Osai faux pax and not repeat the same mistake of complying
obediently and blindly the dictates of the “Little Napoleons” in the
bureaucracy and to bring to bear his higher duties and responsibilities
as the Minister ultimately responsible for all decisions made by his
Now, it is for Hamid to order the immediate and unconditional release of
the Hindraf 5 from Internal Security Act (ISA) detention in Kamunting.
Hamid cannot again pass the responsibility of the continued detention of
the Hindraf 5 to the civil servants as he must bear full and final
responsibility for the government’s refusal to heed the voices of the
people in the March 8 “political tsunami” that the Malaysian Indians
have legitimate grievances about their long-standing marginalization of
their citizenship rights in the country, and the Hindraf 5 should be
rewarded instead of being incarcerated for bringing the plight of the
Malaysian Indians finally to the attention of the government and nation.
Yesterday, Suhakam Commissioner Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam denied
allegations that Hindraf leader P. Uthayakumar had been denied proper
medical care while in detention. What is most surprising is that Siva
had only met representatives from various government quarters including
Taiping Hospital, the police and the Kamunting detention centre but not
Uthayakumar himself and it is most inadvisable on his part to venture
such a bold judgment based solely on one-sided accounts.
Siva should have met Uthayakumar first before passing any judgment. Did
he ask to meet Uthayakumar or was he denied access to the ISA detainee?
If the latter, he should have told the authorities that he would not be
able to offer any public judgment of the treatment of ISA detainees
unless Suhakam is allowed free and unfettered access to them!
In Parliament, it had been customary in the past for Ministers, Deputy
Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries to blame civil servants for
wrong or misleading answers – something completely unheard-of in
first-world Parliaments and countries.
All the Ministers in the second Abdullah Cabinet must adopt a new
mindset and culture of responsibility and should understand and accept
that the buck of responsibility ends with them and that they cannot
claim that they were only acting on the advice of the “Little Napoleons”
in their ministries and departments.
Ministers and Deputy Ministers must master the subjects under their
portfolio which they have to address in Parliament, whether during
question time or debates, and they must bear full responsibility for
every word uttered in Parliament. Civil servants cannot provide safety
nets for Ministers and Deputy Ministers who made a fool of themselves in
Parliament when giving wrong, misleading or even stupid answers.
In the new Parliament starting next week, Ministers and Deputy Ministers
should accept that they have no safety nets when giving replies prepared
by their civil servants as they do not have the luxury of blaming their
civil servants for any mistake or misinformation for what they say in
Ministers and Deputy Ministers are not “postmen” or “postwomen” of their
civil servants when speaking in Parliament.
“Passing the buck” to blame civil servants for wrong or misleading
answers given in Parliament should be a thing of the past as it is no
more acceptable as higher standards are expected of the new Cabinet in
the 12th Parliament.
Kit Siang, MP for Ipoh Timor & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman