Azam objects to PSC inquiry, Wednesday hearing postponed indefinitely

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Azam claimed if the hearing was to be held on Wednesday as planned and the agenda remained unchanged, then the Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders would be breached.

Azam argued that:

  • he filed a defamation suit and matters to be discussed by the PSC might be considered by the courts
  • he was already being investigated by the Securities Commission and the MACC Complaints Committee.
  • any discussions in Parliament should be conducted by means of a private motion and not a select committee as the discussions centered on his conduct

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Azam Baki’s Wednesday meeting with the Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Agencies under the Prime Minister’s Department has been postponed indefinitely.

The notice was sent out to the committee by Dewan Rakyat secretary Dr Nizam Mydin Bacha Mydin today.

“It is hereby informed that the meeting, which is scheduled for January 19, has been postponed to a later date as there are some legal issues that need to be clarified with Parliament’s legal adviser,” said Nizam.

Earlier, the special select committee was scheduled to discuss the issue of Azam’s shareholding in two public listed companies.

Although Azam was also requested to attend the meeting, he has not indicated whether he will attend.

This comes after Azam revealed that he had allowed his brother to use his trading account to purchase shares.

Meanwhile, Abdul Latiff Rahman (PAS-Kuala Krai) – chairperson of the bi-partisan Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Agencies under the Prime Minister’s Department – informed eight other committee members that he received correspondence from Azam.

Therein, Azam said if the hearing was to be held on Wednesday (Jan 19) as planned and the agenda remained unchanged, then the Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders would be breached.

Bernama

Azam argued that this was because he filed a defamation suit and matters to be discussed by the PSC might be considered by the courts.

Furthermore, Azam argued that he was already being investigated by the Securities Commission and the MACC Complaints Committee.

As the discussions centered on his conduct, Azam also argued that any discussions in Parliament should be conducted by means of a private motion and not a select committee.

“(Azam) said that the hearing might be ultra vires (beyond legal authority) based on provisions under the Houses Of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Act 1952,” said Abdul Latiff.

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In view of this, Abdul Latiff said he will be consulting with the Dewan Rakyat legal advisor.

Earlier, 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 Azam’s shareholding 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.

Bernama

“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.

In an emergency motion dated today for Parliament to debate Azam’s controversial shareholdings in a company, former Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker Nga Kor Ming (Teluk Intan-PH) said the issue was urgent and of public interest under Standing Orders 18 (1) (2).

Nga said that the Parliamentary Special Committee (PSC) on Corruption chief Rais Yatim had also urged Azam to go on leave until the investigations are completed.

He is the second lawmaker to file this motion following R Sivarasa’s (Sungai Buloh-PH) motion on December 14.

In the motion, Sivarasa had similarly asked Azhar to let issue be discussed in the August House. Sivarasa’s motion, however, was rejected.

Last week, the Securities Commission said it will summon Azam for an explanation concerning claims that his brother used his trading account to purchase shares.

The regulator in a statement said it will “be in touch with the parties involved for an explanation and to verify statements made, as well as gather any relevant evidence” after Azam said that his brother had used his trading account to purchase shares.


Earlier reports:

Jan 13, Azam ordered to appear at PSC meeting next Wednesday

Jan 12, Azam: Only King can ask me to resign

Jan 8, Police probing Azam Baki

Jan 7, Pakatan: Don’t just probe Azam Baki, but also Abu Zahar, past MACC chiefs

Jan 6, Azam Baki demands RM10m, apology from researcher who blew whistle on his millions of shares

Jan 6, Securities Commission seeks Azam Baki’s explanation over admission of proxy share trading

Jan 5, MACC chief breaks silence on stock ownership