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Friday, December 17, 2010

PRESS STATEMENT re Suspension from Parliament

Suspensions violate the rule of law and threaten the integrity and dignity of Parliament

The suspensions of the Leader of the Opposition, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim ( Member for Permatang Pauh, Karpal Singh ( Member for Bukit Gelugor ), Azmin Ali ( Member for Gombak ) and myself are a flagrant violation of the rule of law.

The nature of these suspensions cannot be seen merely as actions to prevent us as individual members of Parliament from attending Parliament. The complete lack of any basis for the suspensions and the manner they were done threaten fundamentals of Parliament conventions and freedom of speech in Parliament. These are threats to all Malaysians, not just to the four of us.

The issues relating to the suspension of Anwar Ibrahim have been fully canvassed in the Minority Report of the Committee of Privileges written by myself and Karpal Singh ( see http://sivarasa.blogspot.com/2010/12/minority-report-presented-by-yb-karpal.html).

The most outrageous aspect of our four suspensions is the insistence by the BN majority in Parliament to not even accord us the fundamental right to be heard in our defence. In the case of Anwar Ibrahim, as fully explained in the Minority Report, the Speaker himself had repeatedly assured the House on 22.4.10 when the motion to refer Anwar to the Committee of Privileges that a full hearing would be accorded with all parties and witnesses heard. The Committee proceeded on this basis for its 1st three meetings on 17.5.10, 8.6.10 and 9.6.10. No meetings were called for another 6 months and then suddenly at the 4th meeting on 3.12.10, the BN majority members voted to decide the matter without hearing Anwar or any witnesses saying it was sufficient to decided the matter by reference to a letter from APCO dated 19.8.10 and contents of Hansard. Karpal and then withdrew in protest from the proceedings after this decision.

The refusal to hear Anwar Ibrahim shows without doubt the inability and fear of the BN majority to confront the facts and evidence that would have been produced before them by him.

Karpal Azmin and I are now suspended for 6 months for allegedly mentioning “evidence taken before and documents produced to the Committee” outside the House ( for Karpal and me ) and in respect of Azmin, in his urgent motion under Standing Order 18(1) on 6.12.10.

The motion to suspend uses the word “menyentuh” or “mention”. This is not what is prohibited under Standing Order 85 which only prohibits “publishing” or “menyiarkan” the evidence taken before or documents presented to the Committee.

Karpal and I had a press conference together with Datuk Seri Anwar at Parti Keadilan’s Headquarters at 2.30 pm to explain to the media the reason for our withdrawal from the proceedings of the Committee. As far as I was concerned, we were duty bound as members of the Committee and Parliament to do so. It was a matter of public interest to inform the public of the grossly unfair decision that the Committee had just made that morning and to explain our withdrawal.

We did not distribute the letter from APCO to the press nor did we disclose the details of its contents. We had, of course, to mention the fact of the letter from APCO in order to explain the decision of the Committee not to hear Anwar. Mentioning the fact of the letter in that context cannot at all be a breach of Standing Order 85.

A clause in one sentence of the letter was mentioned where the writer of the letter Brad Staples, the CEO of APCO falsely claimed that “he was not permitted to testify”. This was clearly false that because at no time did the Committee tell him that he would not be heard. Mentioning only that clause was relevant to the issue of the gross unfairness of the Committee deciding to proceed on the basis of that letter without hearing Anwar.

Similarly Azmin did not publish the contents of the APCO letter at any time either in his urgent motion itself or the short debate in the House.

Standing Order 85 is very clear. It only means that members of the Committee or Parliament cannot disclose ”evidence” given by witnesses. That does not arise here because the Committee had not even started hearing witnesses. As stated above, the contents of the letter were never published.

Standing Order 85 cannot be used to muzzle members of the Committee or the House from speaking about grossly unfair decisions of the Committee which are obvious matters of public interest.

When the Committee decided to disallow Anwar the right to be represented by legal counsel on 8.6.10 and also refused members of Parliament the right to observe the committee proceedings as done in other Parliaments, we also communicated this to the media. The BN majority led by Minister Nazri seemed to have no issue about this at that time. Somehow the letter from APCO seems to be a much more prickly issue!

The suspension of the Leader of the Opposition is clearly intended to silence his voice in Parliament raising the concerns of the rakyat whilst denouncing the corruption and misdeeds of UMNO/BN. parties.

Azmin’s, Karpal’s and my suspensions are similarly intended but are also petty minded acts of reprisal inflicted to punish us for persistently highlighting the gross unfairness in the proceedings of the Privileges Committee.

Our suspensions will prevent us from attending Parliament for the next 6 months but will not prevent us from discharging our duties to our constituents and the people of Malaysia.

I reiterate – these suspensions are not just about removing us as 4 individual members of Parliament. They represent BN’s desperate attempt to prevent the emergence of truth in Parliament proceedings. They have severely damaged the dignity and integrity of Parliament as an institution.

We will continue to take the message of these and other injustices to the people of Malaysia.

Sivarasa Rasiah, Member of Parliament for Subang 17 December 2010

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