Saturday, December 20, 2008

All eyes on MACC, JAC Bills and Abdullah Badawi

Zainon ahmad

All eyes on MACC, JAC Bills

FINALLY, the much talked-about proposed laws touted as being part of the reforms being instituted by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi before he leaves office were presented to the Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday.

And it was to give him time to carry out the reforms – the passion for which intensified greatly after the March 8 general elction – that the Umno general assembly and the party elections have been postponed from December to March.

To demonstrate how close to his heart these reforms meant to him, Abdullah came to the Dewan Rakyat – where he had been absent for sometime because of his busy schedule – to table the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Bill (MACC) and the Judicial Appointment Commission Bill (JAC) himself.

The proposed laws will create new bodies – originally thought to be independent agencies – to oversee judicial appointments and fight corruption more effectively so that Malaysia will be a better place for all. But typical of Malaysians, they – or at least their representatives in the Dewan Rakyat – are already discussing the merits and demerits of the bills and whether they are what were promised earlier.

The Dewan Rakyat will only be debating the bills next week but already MPs from the BN and Pakatan Rakat are discussing them in the Members Lounge and in lobby.

On the surface, all BN MPs are saying the bills are likely to restore public and investor confidence in the country’s judicial system and taking the battle against corruption to a higher level.

Some of them, however, share the views of some of the opposition members.

They do not see how the bills, in the forms presented, would change public perception about corruption, or raise confidence in the judicial system.

They do not see how the agencies to be set up would be independent when the prime minister still exerts a lot of influence in their functioning.

With time to study the bills, it would be interesting how they are going to be debated next week.

It was an interesting one hour of debate on an emergency motion by Azmin Ali (PKR-Gombak) to discuss the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide that took four lives on Saturday. No one was really surprised that Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia allowed it.

"We want all those responsible for approving the project to be prosecuted," thundered Azmin. A few of the Pakatan Rakyat MPs also stood up to lambast the BN, especially the previous Selangor government, for approving the hill slope projects.

Some of them must have felt funny that despite their provocations, the BN backbenchers did not respond with their usual broadsides. Those who stood to speak did so quite civilly.

Minister of Housing and Local Government Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan, in his response to Lim Guan Eng (DAP-Bagan), admitted that there were sufficient laws governing approvals for projects but the problem was enforcement.

He said a preliminary report on what happened at Bukit Damansara would be ready next month but may not be made public but the full report on what actually happened on the morning of Saturday would only be ready in three months.

Two interesting disclosures were made during this week’s meeting. On Wednesday, the prime minister in his written reply to Liew Chin Tong (DAP-Bukit Bendera) said the government spends RM6 million a month on rental and maintenance on his official residence in Putrajaya. The money is paid to Putrajaya Holdings.

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said the government owned about RM3.6 billion worth of properties overseas, mainly buildings housing the country’s foreign missions abroad.

All eyes on MACC, JAC Bills
The Sun Daily