Tuesday, July 09, 2013
Datuk Paul Low’s trivialisation and politicisation of the Public Accounts Committee chairmanship confirms his BN partisanship and stains his reputation for transparency and accountability
The Pakatan Rakyat state government has made an offer for the Selangor Barisan Nasional (BN) opposition leader to chair the powerful Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to create a first world assembly, in the interest of check and balance, transparency and accountability. The unconditional offer has been rejected by the Selangor opposition leader, Datuk Mohd Shamsuddin Lias.
I have written to implore the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak to instruct Selangor BN to accept the post to prove that he is serious about his transformation programme to make Malaysia “the best democracy in the world” and his pledge to ensure transparency and accountability.
I have made the call on the Datuk Seri Najib Razak to do so, regardless of whether he will offer the Parliament’s PAC chairmanship to Pakatan Rakyat, although he should if he is serious about a first-world parliament.
However, the new Minister in the Prime Minister’s department, Datuk Paul Low has been quick to the draw to dismiss the idea as unnecessary and unimportant. He told the Malay Mail that because “Malaysia, unlike other Commonwealth countries, may not have the political maturity to have an opposition member chair its parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC).”
The Minister seemingly without any political affiliation now claims that “such positions could be abused for political mileage”.
He said that “it depends on political maturity. To what extent can politicians give constructive criticism? Overseas, the opposition joins constructive and bipartisan discussions, so maybe they can do it there.” Low said that in Malaysia the opposition would have to note that the seat was meant to be used for constructive criticism and not just to condemn the government.
Datuk Paul Low’s negative response only proves that he has completely shedded his impartial non-governmental organisation (NGO) skin and has fully embraced BN partisanship. It appears that the former Transparency International President for the Malaysian chapter is now be more worried about the government being condemned for its abuses and scandals, than about uncovering the wrongs of the abuses and scandals.
Datuk Paul Low is indeed correct to note that “overseas, the opposition joins constructive and bipartisan discussions”. But that is because in their parliaments, dozens of bipartisan select committees are set up to discuss the drafting of laws in the country. Here in Malaysia, the BN government will not set up of any such committee to deny the involvement of opposition politicians in the law-making process. BN treats the Parliament like a rubber stamp where whatever amendments sought by the other side of the fence, regardless of whether it is constructive or otherwise, gets rejected by the tyranny of the majority.
The Selangor Pakatan Rakyat Government, by Datuk Paul Low’s own definition, obviously has greater political maturity compared to the BN Federal Government. The state government welcomes criticism, positive or negative, constructive or political, from the BN opposition to improve itself further. After all, if the state government is completely transparent and accountable, the PAC chairman will have no issue or basis to “condemn the government”.
Datuk Paul Low further provided the flimsy excuse that “it was not imperative that an opposition member chair the parliamentary PAC, which already consisted of those from both sides of the political divide and with the chairman serving just as a facilitator”.
His excuse not only trivialises the position of the PAC chairman who gets the say to set the agenda, the excuse doesn’t make any sense. If indeed the chairman is just a facilitator, then why not give it to the Opposition, why shouldn’t BN accept the role in Selangor?
Malaysians had hoped that Datuk Paul Low will set new standards for transparency and accountability in the new Najib Cabinet. Instead, as shown in the previous issues on the set up of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) and the declaration of assets by Cabinet Ministers, not only will no new standards be set, Datuk Paul Low has disappointingly become the apologist for the BN administration to justifyt its opacity and abuses.