Friday, May 20, 2022

Parliament rules bar PSC sessions from being made public

This comes after an NGO director called for the rules to be bent in an upcoming PSC meeting with top graft buster Azam Baki.

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Details and evidence given at proceedings by the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) cannot be made public as this would violate Parliament’s standing orders on the conduct of the bi-partisan committee.

This comes after an NGO activist who recently repeated allegations against Azam Baki called for an open proceeding involving the top graft buster.

Edmund Terence Gomez, a director of local NGO C4 Center whose former staff wrote several articles containing allegations against Azam, who heads the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), had called for PSC to conduct its session in public and with media coverage, saying he was not confident that MPs in the committee would ask the “correct questions”.

“Will there be an attempt to prevent certain questions from being asked? Will there be an attempt to cover up by some of the politicians?” he told news portal Malaysiakini.

But a check of Parliament’s standing orders shows that MPs are barred from publishing details of PSC inquiries until its report is tabled in the Dewan Rakyat.

“The evidence taken before any select committee and any documents presented to such committee shall not be published by any member of such committee, or any other person, before the committee has presented its report to the house,” reads a provision from the standing orders.

The PSC is a sub-legislative group comprising select MPs from both sides of the divide to deal with particular areas of interest with which they have been tasked by the House.

On Jan 19, Azam is expected to be questioned by the PSC on Agencies under the Prime Minister’s Department, a committee comprising MPs from Pakatan Harapan, Perikatan Nasional, Barisan Nasional as well as GPS and Warisan.

This will be the second time an MACC chief has been summoned to Parliament to answer questions from politicians.

In 2019, former MACC chief commissioner Latheefa Koya was called by the PSC, a month after her appointment drew reactions and criticism from some PKR leaders who argued that her appointment should go through Parliament.

Then PSC chairman, PKR MP William Leong, however declined to divulge details of the session.

“We can’t reveal what were the questions and answers discussed in the meeting yet. You will have to wait until the report is tabled in the Dewan Rakyat,” he had said.

Speaker warns of confidentiality

Azam has come under attack from PH politicians since Gomez resigned from MACC’s Consultation and Corruption Prevention Panel, citing allegations published by Lalitha Kunaratnam, an activist who previously worked with C4 Center.

Lalitha had claimed that Azam’s ownership of company shares constituted conflict of interest, a claim denied by the MACC boss.

Last week, she was slapped with a RM10 million defamation suit by Azam, who also demanded a public apology.

When contacted, Dewan Rakyat speaker Azhar Harun confirmed that members of the PSC are prohibited from divulging the details of any proceedings.

Azhar also said that any breach of the standing orders would result in action against PSC members.

“They would be in breach of the standing orders, and might be subject to a motion to refer them to the rights and privileges committee,” he said.

Azhar said while the PSC’s reports can be published, this can only be done after it is presented to the Dewan Rakyat.

“All committees, whether standing committees or special select committees, must follow the standing orders. Currently, the standing orders do not provide for public hearings or the making public of proceedings,” he added.

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