Former speaker Ariff: Azam is in contempt of Parliament

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A person cannot ignore a notice of summon issued by the Parliament or its committees, as this would be akin to contempt of Parliament, according to former Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusoff.

He said this applied to all Malaysians as well as high-ranking government officers, including Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki.

Ariff said parliamentary committees had the authority to call in a person to appear and this power was also extended to the Parliament Select Committee (PSC) on the Agencies under the Prime Minister’s Department.

“That particular PSC is for agencies under the Prime Minister’s Department which include MACC. I don’t think anyone can ignore the notice, otherwise, you’ll be turning it topsy turvy.

“I mean, which is the higher authority? The parliament or the MACC? Parliament is the higher authority so you must appear and he (Azam Baki) should appear.

“It’s the same thing in a court of law. You cannot say ‘because the court is probably without jurisdiction so I’m not going to appear’ – that’ll be contempt of court.

“And in the case of a parliamentary committee, refusing to attend a meeting when you have been summoned is akin to contempt of parliament and this is a serious matter,” he told the New Straits Times.

The PSC on the Agencies under the Prime Minister’s Department had earlier scheduled a meeting for Wednesday where they summoned Azam to appear to discuss the issue surrounding his share ownership scandal.

However, the meeting had been cancelled and according to several opposition MPs who are members of the PSC, Azam had sent a letter asking for the meeting to be cancelled because, among others, citing that the discussion could be considered subjudice since he had filed a defamation suit against a journalist.

The Parliament said it needed time for its Legal Advisory Office to review the matter as there were “legal issues” involved.

Ariff, on the other hand, said Azam should not have used “subjudice” as an excuse to get out of the hearing, adding that this should not be the issue.

“Whether or not the matter is subjudice is not an issue here. You must appear when you are summoned and then you can provide the argument to the committee, whether it is subjudice or otherwise, and then let the committee review the matter and make a decision.

“This is not something the committee members created among themselves. The term of reference has been approved by the parliament at the House, so the power stems from the House.”

Asked if the committee had the authority to call up Azam, Ariff who was a former Court of Appeal judge said they could do so as this was provided for under the parliamentary Standing Orders.

“The House is powerful and the House includes its committees.”

According to the PSC chairman Abdul Latiff Abdul Rahman (Pas-Kuala Krai), he decided to postpone Wednesday’s meeting after getting the opinions of several committee members.

To a question whether Abdul Latiff had the power to make the decision to postpone the meeting, Ariff said the committee chairman could only do so by achieving a collective decision with all committee members.

“The chairman is just a member. He must summon the committee, have a proper meeting, consider it properly, and then decide.

“This is how things work and the chairman can’t be that powerful. A decision must be made together and I believe all of this is just simple logic.” – NST