Monday, May 25, 2009

Two police districts for Klang

The China Press organized a dialogue with the Klang Police on May 23, 2009 at the Dewan Orang Ramai Taman Eng Ann, the oldest and largest residential area in my constituency, Sungai Pinang, Klang.

I attended the dialogue to meet the OCPD, ACP Mohamad bin Mat Yusof and his senior officers from the Klang Police District Office.

Contrary to general belief, Klang is not on top of the list as far as crime rate is concerned. Those municipalities with names ended with ‘Jaya’, namely Petaling Jaya, Ampang Jaya Subang, and Gombak beat Klang in that respect.

The negative impression that Klang has been one of the most notorious cities was due to the outspokenness of the large number of active non-governmental organizations in Klang. While on the one hand these NGO have played an important role in supervising the police and raising public consciousness in crime prevention, those publicity created in the media has also unintentionally given a bad image on the other hand.

Be it as it may, that does not mean that the level of crime rate in Klang is satisfactory. Much need to be done by the police to make the residents feel safe to live in this once serene royal town.

As one of its efforts to improve its service, the current Klang Police District will split into two and the Klang river will be the boundary. The plan has been on paper for quite a while and hopefully it will not stay idle any longer.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Future in Melaka

I went to Melaka last night to pay my last respect to the late mother of Sdr Kerk Kim Hock, ex-Secretary General of the DAP and former MP for Kota Melaka, who passed away 2 days ago.

I only realized that the DAP Melaka had organized a forum on the subject of '1Malaysia' at its Dewan Rakyat DAP Melaka, the DAP Melaka Headquarters, on the same night when I arrived at Melaka. Sdr Goh Leong San, the Chairman of DAP Melaka and State Assemblyman for Kesidang, certainly did not want to miss the opportunity to get me onto the stage.

After visiting Kerk, I went back to the headquarters and joined the panel speakers, namelyJeff Ooi, MP for Jelutong, Tan Ah Chye, Chief Executive Secretary of Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall and Lim Hong Siong, a writer.

I had attended at least 3 or 4 forum in Melaka after the 2008 general election to talk on various current issues. From my years of experience speaking at forums in Melaka, I observed and felt that the 2008 general election heat is still very much in the air even after 14 months as if a by-election was around the corner in Melaka. Of course, there are two impending ones in Penanti, Penang and Manek Urai, Kelantan, respectively.

All forums that I had attended in Melaka had been able to attract around 350 people. That is impressive considering that the location of Dewan Rakyat DAP Melaka is slightly away from the Melaka downtown.

More interestingly, the crowd in Melaka is very much responsive nowadays. They are no longer the quiet crowd that make the speakers worry about whether their messages have driven home. More and more people in middle age would even come forward to photograph with the speakers they like.

Whenever we talk about change in the country, we see their eyes twinkling with hopes. If we can keep the momentum, the future is bright, in Melaka.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Nizar loses in Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal overturned the decision of Kuala Lumpur High Court which ruled that Dato Seri Mohamad Nizar Jamaluddinn was the legitimate Menteri Besar of Perak, today.
The decision of the Court of Appeal will have a serious implication to the interpretation of our Federal Constitution and all the Constitutions of the states.
Nevertheless, as Nizar can still appeal to the Federal Court, the Perak political and constitutional crisis is still far from the ending.

Why do we refer to “Parliamentary Practice by Erskine May”?

Some people may ask why do we refer to Parliamentary Practice by Erskine May (1815-1886) whenever discussing issues on parliamentary practice.

The direct answer to it is that Erskine May, a collection of parliamentary practice for hundreds of years, has been the foremost authority in Parliament of the United Kingdom, the blueprint of all parliaments in the Commonwealth. Over the years, Erskine May has also become the most influential reference in the Commonwealth Parliaments.

However, that reason alone is not good enough for us to quote Erskine May every now and then. As far as Selangor Legislative Assembly is concerned, unlike the Standing Order of Parliament of Malaysia, it is provided in the Standing Order No. 88, which states that:-

“All matters not specifically provided in these Orders and all questions relating to the detailed working of these Orders shall be regulated in such manner, not inconsistent with these Orders, as Mr Speaker may from time to time direct; and in giving such direction Mr Speaker shall have regard to the usages of Commonwealth Parliamentary practice so far as such usages can be applied to the proceedings of the Assembly." (The emphasis is mine)
The reason is now clear why Erskine May is the authority which has been dubbed the bible for parliamentary practice.
Some may further question the source of law that allows the Legislative Assembly to make such a regulation that permits the reference to a foreign authority. The answer is found in the Selangor Laws of Constitution, 1959. Article LXXV( 1) provides as follows:-
“Subject to the provisions of the Federal Constitution and this Constitution, the Legislative Assembly shall regulate its own procedure and may from time to time make, amend and revoke Standing Rules and Orders for the regulation and orderly conduct of its own proceedings and conduct of business.”
Although the Standing Order of Parliament of Malaysia, in particular Standing Order No. 100, has only the first limb of the provision of Selangor Legislative Assembly Standing Order No. 88, and does not specifically refer to Commonwealth Parliamentary practice, Erskine May has been frequently referred to resolve disputes arise in the proceedings over the years.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

An ignorant Deputy Speaker of Parliament

I am appalled by the statement of the Deputy Speaker of Dewan Rakyat Malaysia, Datuk Dr Wan Junaidi bin Tuanku Jaafar, as published in the a Chinese daily, Sin Chew Jit Poh, today.

He made the statement when commenting the decision of the Privileges Committee of Selangor Legislative Assembly to recommend the suspension of Dato Seri Khir Toyo from the service of the House for a year after being found guilty of contempt of the Legislative Assembly for refusing to attend a public hearing by the Special Select Committee on Competency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat).

Wan Junaidi said that the Privileges Committee should not punish Khir and should instead try its best to compel Khir to attend the public hearing, including issuing warrant against Khir. He further criticized the Privileges Committee for disclosing its decision before tabling it to the Legislative Assembly.

While there is a provision in the Houses of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Act 1952 that empowers the Speaker to issue a warrant for apprehension and imprisonment against a person, there is no such enactment or any such power to issue warrant at the Legislative Assembly level. Even at the level of Parliament, such warrant can only be issued upon resolution of the House after finding guilty of contempt.

On the disclosure of the decision of the Privileges Committee, there is no provision in the Standing Order or any other enactment that prohibits the same. The Standing Order only prohibits revelation of the evidence and documents before the committee’s report is tabled to the House.

I have no qualm if Wan Junaidi wants to defend his comrade using his status as a Deputy Speaker of Parliament. However, he should stick to the law applicable and not to mislead the public which he has obviously done.
No wonder the sitting of Parliament has always been chaotic and dubbed circus. Perhaps Wan Junaidi should make a study trip to the Selangor Legislative Assembly. I would be honored to play host to his visit.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What is “Contempt of the House”?

Contempt of House of Parliament or the Legislative Assembly is a serious offence. However, the definition of contempt is rather wide. In Erskine May Parliamentary Practice, 23 rd Edition, page 128, it is generally defined as follows:-

“…any act or omission which obstruct or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its function, or which obstructs or impedes any Member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results, may be treated as a contempt even though there is no precedent of the offence.”
It is impossible to list down every act that might constitute a contempt. However, there are some broad principles drawn from the past cases that exemplify the definition of a contempt.

1. Any disorderly, contumacious or disrespectful conduct in the presence of either House or a committee will constitute a contempt, which may be committed by strangers, parties or witnesses. (ibid. page 128).

2. Disobedience to rules or orders of House of Parliament or of a committee. In particular, it is stated that “disobedience to the order of a committee made within its authority is a contempt of the House by which the committee was appointed. Individuals have been held to be in contempt who did not comply with orders for their attendance made by committees with the necessary powers to send for persons; as have those who have disobeyed or frustrated committee orders for the production of papers.” (ibid. page 131).

3. Any abuse of right of petition may be treated as a contempt (ibid. page 131).

4. Members deliberately mislead the House (ibid. page 132).

5. Act of corruption or impropriety (ibid. page 132).

6. Receiving fees by Members for professional services related to Proceeding in the House (ibid. 137).

7. Diminishing the respect due to the Members by words spoken or writings published reflecting on the character or proceeding of the House as such acts of abuse tends to obstruct the House in the performance of its function (ibid. page 138).

8. Publication of false of perverted reports of debates (ibid. page 139).

9. Premature publication or disclosure of committee proceedings (ibid. page 139)

10. Obstructing Members in the discharge of their duty by way of arrest, molestation, reflection and intimidation (ibid. page 143).

The list is not exhaustive. Nevertheless, it is sufficient for our reference in the present case in Selangor.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Chaotic Perak Legislative Assembly: Was removal of Speaker lawful?

YB Sivakumar was supposedly removed as Speaker of Perak State Legislative Assembly by a motion tabled by YB Dr Zambry this morning when the Deputy Speaker was chairing the meeting from her assemblyman’s seat in the presence of the Speaker who was then still occupying the Speaker’s chair.

The office of Speaker is provided by the constitution. As such, the election and removal of the Speaker shall be conducted in accordance with the relevant provisions of the constitution. Any departure from or contravention of the relevant constitutional provisions will render the proceeding unconstitutional and unlawful.

Article XXXVIA(3)of the Perak State Constitution provides that whenever the Speaker is not present at the meeting of the House, another member of the House shall, in accordance with the provision of the Standing Order, be appointed to carry out the duties of the Speaker.

It is crystal clear that the Deputy Speaker has acted ultra vires the state constitution in chairing the meeting that removed YB Sivakumar as the Speaker when Sivakumar was present in the House. The motion passed to remove YB Sivakumar was therefore unconstitutional.

Consequently, the election of the “new” Speaker was unconstitutional as there was no vacancy to fill.