Opposition MPs walk out over Apco case

By: Husna Yusop

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KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 8, 2010): The opposition MPs staged a walkout today following a futile attempt by Azmin Ali (PKR-Gombak) to discuss Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s (PKR-Permatang Pauh) impending punishment in the Apco case.

Azmin tabled the motion on Monday but it was rejected in Chambers by Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia today, saying the Privileges Committee has yet to deliver its decision.

Azmin argued over Pandikar Amin’s decision, claiming that the principles of natural justice have been violated as Anwar was not allowed to cross examine witnesses or defend himself before the committee.

“You rejected the motion because details of the committee’s investigation cannot be released by any members before its recommendation is brought to the House.

“My argument is the proceedings had not even commenced and Permatang Pauh was not even allowed to come forward,” he said.

He added that the committee has decided not to call Anwar because Apco Worldwide had on Aug 19 offered an explanation through a letter to the committee.

Anwar had been summoned to the committee after he claimed that Apco Worldwide, the public relations consultancy employed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, was behind both the 1Malaysia and 1Israel concepts.

Pandikar Amin insisted that the Standing Orders used by Azmin to table the motion was inappropriate, adding that the committee has yet to present its report to the House for debates.

Azmin then said he was not questioning the committee’s eventual recommendation but its failure to follow proper procedures.

Pandikar Amin continued to stand by his decision and ordered the secretary to read the next order of the day but this triggered a round of arguments from the opposition members.

They continued their argument, creating a chaos, resulting in Pandikar Amin suspending several opposition MPs who were standing as he said they were disrupting the House.

“Padang Serai (PKR’s N. Gobalakrishnan), Balik Pulau (PKR’s Yusmadi Yusoff) and Indera Mahkota (PKR’s Azan Ismail), please leave. Who else is standing? You can leave,” he said, adding they can come back after lunch at 2.30pm.

This prompted some 20 other Pakatan Rakyat MPs to stage a walkout in support of their colleagues.

In a press conference at the lobby, Karpal Singh (DAP-Bukit Gelugor) said the decision by Pandikar Amin to reject the motion was a conflict of interest as both Pandikar Amin and Deputy Speaker Datuk Ronald Kiandee are members of the committee.

“The Privileges Committee is riding rough on the rights of Anwar. Pandikar Amin is the committee chairman. He should not have rejected the motion,” he said, adding it should have been reviewed by Deputy Speaker Datuk Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

“There was a clear case of an agenda by the Speaker himself,” he added.

“The manner when he chaired the (committee) meeting (on Dec 3) and the manner he went about in the House today. What was more important was for the Speaker to have heard out Azmin, which he did not,” he said.

During the Dec 3 committee meeting, a motion by Datuk Razali Ibrahim (BN-Muar) to proceed with the hearing without witnesses was passed.

It was supported by Datuk Seri Dr Fong Chan Onn (BN-Alor Gajah), Nancy Shukri (BN-Batang Sadong) and Kiandee.

In protest, Karpal and R. Sivarasa (PKR-Subang) had then walked out of the meeting.

Azmin said the decision to reject the motion was “outrageous and goes against the principles of justice”.

“It goes against what the Speaker himself said. Pandikar Amin on April 22 this year has said a person referred to the committee will be given the right to give his statement and call for witnesses,” he added.

Article by Azmin Ali