Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 19th of June, 2014
On Tuesday, 17th of June, 2014, a briefing was held for the media at the Integrity Institute of Malaysia on the latest release of the National Auditor’s Report. This meeting was organized by the office of Senator Datuk Paul Low, Minister in charge of anti-corruption initiatives and attended by all the Secretary-Generals of all the Ministries including the Chief Secretary, Tan Sri Ali Hamsa.
Before the start of this briefing, the Minister asked all who were not civil servants or members of the media to leave the briefing room. He specifically asked for MPs to leave the room. The MP for Bayan Baru, Sim Tze Sim and the MP for Kuala Terengganu, Dato’ Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah bin Raja Ahmad, who identified themselves as MPs were then asked to leave the briefing room. I did not identify myself as an MP and hence, was not asked to leave the room. I stayed on for the entire briefing.
The invitation to the briefing which I received from another source stated that this was a public briefing or ‘taklimat umum’ (Appendix 1). Nowhere was it stated that this briefing was only restricted to the media and that MPs were not allowed to attend. In the reply slip, there was no mention that this briefing was only for the media (Appendix 2). Furthermore I had emailed my registration for this event and had gotten a positive reply from the office of Datuk Paul Low (Appendix 3). I attended this event in good faith and was surprised that the Minister asked MPs in attendance to leave the room. Given that I had already registered for this event and received a positive reply from the Minister’s office, I did not see any need for me to leave the event and as such, I did not identify myself as an MP. Even if the Minister’s office had made an error in not clarifying that this was event was only open to the media, he acted in bad faith when he asked for MPs already present to leave the room.
In a subsequent statement, the Minister tried to explain why the MPs were asked to leave the room. Among the reasons was the following:
“It was a matter of principle. MPs already have a legitimate platform to raise questions on the AG’s Report during each sitting of Parliament. Again, this event was meant solely for the Press – and we hope that the boundaries of this promising platform will be understood and respected by all parties concerned.”
The Minister should be aware that the AG’s report was tabled only one week after the current parliament sitting started. Our parliamentary questions are submitted 2 weeks before the sitting starts which means we have no way to include the items found in the AG’s report in our questions. Furthermore, there is no separate or special session in parliament to debate the AG’s Report. Each MP does not have the opportunity to raise specific questions to specific Ministers or the Sec-Gens in parliament. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is only comprised of a small number of MPs and even then, the PAC hearings are not open to the press nor to other MPs who are not part of the PAC. Hence, such an event would have been an excellent opportunity for MPs from both sides to ask their specific questions on the latest AG report.
The Minister, at this briefing, said that he would organize a similar session with the MPs. We hold him to his word that he would organize another briefing comprising of all the Sec-Gens of all the Ministries including the Chief Secretary for all the MPs. His failure to do so would signify the lack of desire to have an open, transparent and honest discussion and debate about the National Auditor’s Report and to combat corruption and wastage more generally.
Appendix 1: Invitation
Appendix 2: Reply Slip
Appendix 3: Registration Response