Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Nazri off the hook

KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 25, 2008) : De facto law minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz today escaped being referred to the privileges committee after the Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker ruled that he did not intend to mislead the House that six former judges were not sacked in 1998.

However, opposition MP Gobin Singh Deo (DAP-Puchong) wasn't so lucky. He was suspended for two days for accusing deputy speaker Datuk Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar of favouring Nazri.

Wan Junaidi said he was satisfied Nazri did not intend to mislead the House when he said on Nov 6 that the judges were not sacked since they had received pensions.

This triggered a protest from Karpal Singh (DAP-Bukit Gelugor) and his son Gobind accused Wan Junaidi of defending Nazri. Both had called for Nazri to apologise.

Earlier, Wan Junaidi said he had studied the circumstances, not only by looking at Nazri’s statement but also by referring to other related documents. “I have read the tribunal report and the decision made by the Council of Rulers (in 1988). The letter (from the council) was only privy to the council and judges but I had obtained it as Parliament made the application.

“There was a letter to former Lord President Tun Salleh Abas and another from the chief secretary to the government. I have also read letters from the Pensions Department and journals on the practice, precedent and materials from other countries,” he said.

Datuk Bung Moktar Radin (BN-Kinabatangan) interrupted to say that Wan Junaidi should just announce his decision than try to be like a judge, making Nazri look like an accused.

Wan Junaidi said he must explain the basis of his decision first. He said in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and India, for an MP to be referred to the committee, there must be an intention on the part of the MP to mislead the House.

“To refer an MP to the Privileges Committee, first, the MP’s statement must have misled the House. Second, the MP must realise the statement he made was incorrect. And third, when making the statement, the MP must have intended to mislead the House. But, since Nazri had corrected himself in an open confession to the press on Nov 13, the second and third conditions have not been met,” he said.

Karpal argued that it was unacceptable for Nazri to make his defence outside the House. Datuk Anifah Aman (BN-Kimanis) stopped him, saying the Speaker’s decision was final. Salahuddin Ayub (PAS-Kubang Kerian) said Nazri must apologise in the name of integrity.

Wan Junaidi: “He does not have to apologise. I don’t need him to. I made the decision based on cases in other Commonwealth countries. I don’t want this Parliament to be a mockery if we make decisions different from other countries.”

Karpal: “The Speaker has made a mockery of this House.”

Wan Junaidi asked him to retract his statement but Karpal continued: "You made a mockery of this House. Don’t play around, Mr Speaker. Being a lawyer yourself, how can you make such a decision? The decision does not stand. The minister must apologise.”

Gobind stood up to accuse Wan Junaidi of defending Nazri and was immediately ordered to leave the Dewan. When Gobind refused to budge, Wan Junaidi said he decided to suspend him because he had objected to the chair’s decision.

Gobind: “He made the mistake and I have to leave? Mr Speaker, you are biased. This is coward. And coward number one is there (pointing to Nazri). Stand up! Stand up and apologise like a man!”

He then left the House accompanied by the Sergeant-at-arms. In the lobby, Gobind said he only wanted to know from Wan Junaidi if enough information had been acquired before he made the ruling.

“If the minister did not apologise or explain inside the House, how can the (Deputy) Speaker know what his defence is? I also wanted to know, if he is prepared to apologise outside, why can’t he apologise to the MPs inside the House?"

In the lobby, Nazri told reporters he did not have to apologise because Wan Junaidi had ruled that there was no prima facie case that he purposely misled the House.

He reiterated that he regretted that what he mentioned in the House two weeks ago had caused “difficulties” to some quarters.

“I had no intention to make a mistake and because the letter (which was written by the King to the chief secretary to the government to give pension to the sacked judges) was not privy to the public. It is clear that even I, as a minister, had no knowledge about the letter.

“For 20 years, no one knew that pension had been paid, so how could I know about the incident?"
Asked if he would explain to the MPs in the House, Nazri said: “I do not do things to pacify the MPs, I do things that should be correct. Whatever is said in the House will be reported, so the most important thing is to clarify to the public."

seals: another BN style judgement, let the guilty go and charge the one who highlighted it.

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