The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) is alarmed that the Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has unilaterally decided that ex-UMNO MP Ronald Kiandee could remain as the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) even though he has now joined PPBM and become part of the ruling coalition.
Bersih 2.0 noted that the excuse given by the PM for this manifesto U-turn is that this promise to have a member of the Opposition as Chair is “only policy, and not institutionalized or part of the constitution”.
We wish to remind Tun Mahathir that the reason why the PH manifesto had it as a promise in the first place was so that the dignity of the Parliament should be restored and that it should not be a mere rubber stamp to the Executive branch of the government.
The backbench and Opposition Members of Parliament should strongly condemn this move to undermine their role as a check and balance to the Cabinet.
The PAC’s mandate is to review all public accounts and to examine the Auditor-General’s reports. It has the power to investigate all the government’s business by calling Cabinet ministers and head of government agencies to explain any concerns they or the public might have.
For it to be Chaired by an Opposition member will ensure that the ruling party cannot exert undue influence over the agenda of the PAC. Lessons should have been learnt from the 1MDB debacle on the importance of a bipartisan PAC that is not chaired by a member of the ruling party.
Furthermore, Kiandee’s statement that he will not resign since the PM has made it clear he doesn’t have to and that he would follow Mahathir’s wishes, shows clearly he is not suitable to chair the PAC.
For the PM to say that because this promise was not institutionalized and therefore can be overridden raises more serious concerns about his commitment to structural institutional reforms.
Soon after taking power last year, the PM administratively released key institutions like the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the Election Commission, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia and the National Audit Department from the control of the Prime Minister’s Department. Will he or future Prime Ministers reverse this move because their independence were not “institutionalized”?
Bersih 2.0 calls on the Prime Minister and the PH government to honour all their manifesto promises and to immediately amend legislations in order to institutionalize the independence of these key public institutions so that they can effectively guard against abuses by the Executive and protect public interests.
If the Prime Minister does not reverse his decision to retain Kiandee as Chair of PAC, then not only is the credibility of the PH government at stake but the dignity of Parliament as well. Tun Mahathir’s legacy to the nation should be that he came out of retirement to restore the independence of public institutions and not to perpetuate their subservience to the Prime Minister of the day.
Statement released by:
Steering Committee of Bersih 2.0