Dewan Rakyat Speaker has power to make PAC hearings public, says chairman ahead of Azam Baki PSC meeting

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Public Accounts Committee chairman Wong Kah Woh speaks at a press conference at the Parliament building September 28, 2021. — Bernama pic
Public Accounts Committee chairman Wong Kah Woh speaks at a press conference at the Parliament building September 28, 2021. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 — Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Wong Kah Woh has clarified that the Dewan Rakyat Speaker has the power to make PAC meetings public.

In a statement today, Wong said it was “not right” for Speaker Tan Sri Azhar Azizan Harun to say that the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) meeting scheduled for Wednesday (January 19) to discuss the shareholdings of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki will not be open to the public due to Parliament’s Standing Orders.

“The Speaker is not right. He has the power to initiate the suspension of Standing Order by referring the same to the House for a decision pursuant to Standing Order 90(2).

“With the suspension of Standing Order 85, any Parliamentary committees’ proceedings can be aired online and be opened to the public,” said Wong.

He also said that it was “totally absurd” for the Speaker to say that the closed-door proceedings are meant to ensure the complete cooperation of everyone involved.

“Firstly, all witnesses are duty bound to give full cooperation to the committee and shall answer all questions raised to him during the Parliamentary committees’ proceedings.

“Secondly, any person who gives false answers has not only committed a contempt of the House, but is also liable for an offence under Section 193 of the Penal Code as provided for in Section 20 of the Houses of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Act 1952.

“Thirdly, all the notes of proceedings are recorded in the form of Hansard and will be published together with the committee’s report,” he said.

Hence, Wong stressed that closed-door proceedings do not automatically guarantee a witness’ honesty, nor do open proceedings mean a witness can dodge the truth.

He added that it makes no difference to witness testimony whether a proceeding is public or conducted behind closed doors.

“The purpose of setting up PSCs for various subjects is not meant for window dressing but shall serve as a serious move towards Parliamentary reforms.

“Parliamentary reforms will not complete if we are still holding proceedings via close-door.

“The Parliamentary Standing Order Committee in 2019 has made the decision for all Parliamentary committees’ proceedings to be made public, and the hardware requirements for live proceedings are all ready and in place on the Malaysia Parliament TV Channel,” he said.

He added that all parliamentary committees’ proceedings should be public, unless they involve matters of national security.

“The PAC chairmen had been writing to the Speaker since Datuk Nur Jazlan’s (former chairman) time for this.

“I do not know how many more times we need to do so and make the same call over and over again,” he said.

He also questioned Azhar’s hesitance over open proceedings that the public can watch to evaluate and scrutinise the testimony given by witnesses, since the issue at hand is important.

“It is the public’s right to know that matters. It is an important issue that involves the top rank officer which had put the integrity of MACC at stake.

“It is time for the Speaker to ensure that all Parliamentary Committees can function efficiently and effectively to check on the executive,” said Wong.

Yesterday, Azhar reportedly said that all PSC proceedings, including the upcoming Wednesday (January 19) meeting to discuss Azam’s share ownership saga will not be open to the public due to parliamentary standing orders.

The Dewan Rakyat Speaker said that all proceedings of the Special Select Committee and other committees are subject to the provisions of Standing Orders.

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