Thursday, May 22, 2008

Anti-corruption drive: Pakatan attacks track record of Abdullah gov't

KUALA LUMPUR, May 23 (ES) - Opposition parliamentary members occupying 82 out of 222 seats on May 22 offered substantive solutions to strengthen the government's efforts to weed out corruption but at the same time continued to express cynicism at the government's commitment.

The Pakatan Rakyat coalition consisting of MPs from Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS), the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and People Justice Party (KeADILan) had introduced concepts such as "Press Freedom", independent prosecution and investigation, "Freedom of Information Act", an "independent tender board" for public procurement and the role of spiritual guidance – concepts which in the past which were ignored by a government with a two-thirds majority.

At the same time, Pakatan MPs were questioning follow up action from Abdullah's administration over his involvement in the "oil-for-food" scandal and a recent claim by a ruling backbencher that he was offered a large sum of money to defect to the opposition camp.

Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang (PAS-Marang), who is also PAS president said the government should not only come up with laws but also integrate spiritual aspects to combat corruption.

Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timur), who is also former parliamentary opposition leader questioned the government commitment to act over Kota Belud parliamentary Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan's claim that he was offered a huge sum of money by the opposition.

"Will the government advise Kota Belud (parliamentarian) to make a (police) report?," he asked.

Tian Chua (KeADILan-Batu) questioned whether the government would gazette the United Nation's report that cleared Abdullah of receiving any benefit from the "Oil-for-food" scandal to clear "Abdullah's image".

Dzulkifli Ahmad (PAS-Kuala Selangor) wanted to know whether the government would use "independent tender board" accountable to the Parliament for government-to- government procurements especially for the defence sector which has been identified "mine" for corrupt practices.

Compartmentalised solutions

He said negative "perceptions" remained over payment to a third party involved in the government procurements of the "Scorpene" submarines.

Khalid Samad (PAS-Shah Alam) said the government's efforts to combat corruption is being tackled using "compartmentalized" solutions. He said although in certain countries, the Attorney General was appointed but the existence of "Press freedom" and the "Freedom of Information Act" ensured all cases were thoroughly investigated.

In his winding up speech to the Royal address, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohd Nazri Aziz said the detail of the upcoming Commission against corruption to replace the current Anti Corruption Agency would be announced later.

He said the government is taking into consideration the independence of the Commission and that the current legislation provided for a whistleblower protection but the need for additional act would also be considered Nazri rejected a formation of an independent investigation into Abdullah's involvement in the "oil-for-food" scandal saying that the premier had already been cleared by a UN investigation.

"We don't have to gazette (the result of) the investigation.

"It's a public document," he said.

He also disallowed first time parliamentary member Abdul Rahman’s from responding to attacks from opposition members.

"This is my floor," he said. "He does not need to rise (to respond)," he said.- Saadon Aksah/ES

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