No More Dodging 1MDB Questions in Parliament

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House Speaker lifts ban and MPs now are free to discuss 1MDB civil matters, but lawyers say the issue should be debated without any restriction.

There is no running away from answering questions related to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) in Parliament now, DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang has told embattled former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak.

“The MO1 (Malaysian Official No 1) had already run away from the question for more than two years, it is time to answer in Parliament,” Lim said after launching the Iskandar Puteri parliamentary service centre yesterday.

Lim welcomed the lifting of the ban imposed in March 2016.

The gag order by former Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia was on parliamentary discussions about the US Department of Justice’s (DoJ) civil lawsuits concerning 1MDB and the RM2.6 billion foreign “donation” to Najib.

Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof made the ruling to lift the ban after scrutinising several international Parliamentary practices.

However, he did not lift the interim gag order by the High Court against discussing the merits of the criminal 1MDB case against Najib, which was filed by Najib’s lawyers on July 4.

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“The interim gag order by YB Pekan’s lawyer, where the (merits) of the cases cannot be brought up in the Dewan Rakyat as it is a criminal case. As such it should be respected,” said Ariff on Thursday (August 2).

This means that lawmakers are still unable to bring up issues related to the criminal charges surrounding 1MDB.

Ariff said that the ruling was made to respect the High Court’s decision, in a bid to uphold the separation of powers.

The ruling was made after Datuk Seri Dr Ismail Mohamed Said (BN-Kuala Krau) on July 25 sought the Speaker’s clarification if the blanket ban on 1MDB and the RM2.6 billion donation was still in effect.

Meanwhile, two lawyers said MPs should be allowed to debate the 1MDB issue without any restriction.

Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar Al Mahdzar said a decision of the court could not bind the legislature while R Kengadharan said a court decided cases based on the strength of law and evidence, not hearsay and rumours.

They said this in response to Ariff’s decision to allow MPs to discuss 1MDB but only in respect to civil matters.

Syed Iskandar said a “questionable” gag order issued by a High Court on public discussion of the 1MDB-related case against Najib Razak only bound the media and did not extend to the legislature.

Reuters

The lawyer said the Speaker should have made a blanket ruling that 1MDB could be debated in the house but caution the media about the consequences if they reported the proceedings due to a gag order.

Ariff, a retired judge, said his decision was based on international practices in Commonwealth jurisdictions such as Australia and the United Kingdom.

Syed Iskandar said the legislature (Parliament) and the judiciary (courts) were independent of each other in the separation of power scheme.

“A decision of the court cannot bind the legislature and its members,” he said.

He urged MPs to ask the speaker to reconsider his ruling.

Meanwhile, Kengadharan said Ariff could discipline members if they abused their parliamentary privilege, instead of allowing them to only touch on civil aspects of the case.

“I see no reason why the Speaker should impose a limitation on the 1MDB issue just because there is a criminal proceeding against the former prime minister and an interim gag order,” he said.

He said this was unprecedented and not healthy for the growth of local democracy.

Kengadharan said MPs had a social duty to their constituents while judges had a legal duty.

“The court decides cases based on the strength of law and evidence, not hearsay and rumours,” he added.

It is unclear whether Attorney-General Tommy Thomas would apply to set aside the order when the court convenes on Aug 8.