Media statement by MP for Ipoh Timor and Parliament PAC Chairman, Wong Kah Woh on 17 January 2022:
The Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Harun has said Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) meeting scheduled for Wednesday (Jan 19) to discuss the shareholdings of MACC chief commissioner Azam Baki will not be opened to the public due to the Parliament’s Standing Orders.
The Speaker is not right. He has the power to initiate the suspension of Standing Order by referring the same to the House for a decision pursuant to Standing Order 90(2).
With the suspension of Standing Order 85, any Parliamentary Committees proceedings can be aired online and be opened to public.
The Speaker also said that the close-door proceedings is meant to ensure complete cooperation from everyone involved. This is totally absurd.
Firstly, all witnesses are duty bound to give full cooperation to the Committee and shall answer all questions raised to him during the Parliamentary Committees’ proceedings.
Secondly, any person who gives false answers has not only committed a contempt of the House, but is also liable for an offence under Section 193 of the Penal Code as provided for in Section 20 of the Houses of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Act 1952.
Thirdly, all the notes of proceedings are recorded in the form of Handsard and will be published together with the Committee’s report. Close-door proceeding doesn’t automatically guarantee a witness’ honesty, and open-proceeding doesn’t mean a witness can then evade from telling the truth. It makes no difference on the issue of the content of the testimony of the witnesses, whether or not the proceeding is closed or opened.
The purpose of setting up PSCs for various subjects is not meant for window dressing but shall serve as a serious move towards parliamentary reforms. Parliamentary reforms will not complete if we are still holding proceedings via close-door. The Parliamentary Standing Order Committee in 2019 has made the decision for all Parliamentary Committees’ proceedings be made public, and the hardware requirements for live proceedings are all ready and in place on the Malaysia Parliament TV Channel.
The spirit should be all Parliamentary Committee’s proceedings shall be made public, unless for cases that involve national security. The PAC Chairmen had been writing to the Speaker since Nur Jazlan’s time for this. I do not know how many more times we need to do so and make the same call over and over again.
With such an important subject in hand, why is the Speaker still hesitant for an open-proceedings to enable the public to watch, evaluate and scrutinise the testimony given by the witnesses?
It is the public’s right to know that matters. It is an important issue that involves the top rank officer which had put the integrity of MACC at stake. It is time for the Speaker to ensure that all Parliamentary Committees can function efficiently and effectively to check on the executive.