Parliament select committee members want hearing to proceed, with or without Azam

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The right thing for Azam to do was attend the meeting and then give his reasons.

All four Opposition MPs on the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) overseeing Agencies in the Prime Minister’s Department have insisted today that the hearing for Tan Sri Azam Baki should go ahead as scheduled on January 19.

The four MPs had, in a joint press conference today, said the hearing should not be postponed even if Azam would not be appearing before the committee.

“Who is Azam Baki that he can refuse to appear for a hearing with the PSC?

“Who is he to override Parliament?” said DAP’s Kota Melaka MP Khoo Poay Tiong, one of the MPs who were present at the press conference conducted via Zoom.

“Even if Azam Baki doesn’t show up, the meeting should still go on.

“Why did we postpone the meeting just because of his three reasons? We should insist that he comes. If he refuses, then we take action,” said Khoo.

He added that the committee should not have cancelled the meeting on Azam’s account.

The four MPs were responding to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner’s refusal to attend the hearing, on the grounds that his testimony to the Agencies Committee violated the Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders that do not allow Parliament to discuss matters pending in courts.

According to news reports, Azam initiated legal action against an activist who accused him of owning a large equity stake in a public-listed company, possibly in violation of rules governing civil servants.

He had also argued that he was already being investigated by the Securities Commission and the MACC Complaints Committee.

The Opposition MPs, however, said regardless of the reasons given by Azam, he should still attend the hearing to explain himself.

“Whether he wants to share his testimony or not, he has to attend the hearing to tell the committee his reasons for refusal.

“Whatever his reason for not attending, he has to be present himself to say it,” said Khoo.

The four MPs added that even if Azam did not attend the hearing, matters such as the terms of reference and list of witnesses can be discussed and decided upon instead.

“This could be a time where the authority of select committees is to determine whether there are mechanisms that are effective in conducting investigations and disciplinary action,” said Khoo.

Apart from Khoo, Azis Jamman (Sepanggar-Warisan), and Pakatan Harapan MPs Chan Foong Hin (Kota Kinabalu) and William Leong (Selayang) also disagreed with the decision to defer tomorrow’s meeting.

Khoo said Azam’s reasons for not attending the hearing also did not make sense.

“We don’t agree with his three reasons. The civil suit excuse cannot be accepted. In many cases investigated by the committee, there were those which involved civil suits and we still called them. There are no issues.”

Azam’s statement that the hearing contravenes Standing Orders was also baseless, Khoo said.

“Standing Order 83(2) provides that a select committee shall have the power to send persons, documents or papers, and shall have leave to report its opinion and observations, together with the minutes of evidence taken before it to the House.

“This gives the select committee the power to call individuals to appear (before the committee).”

With regard to Azam’s third reason for calling off the hearing, which was that he was under investigation by other agencies, Khoo said parliament had the power of oversight over all matters.

“All three of his reasons cannot be accepted. Azam only gave his personal opinion on why he cannot attend. That is just his excuse but it should not become a reason that is acceptable or override parliament. If he is called, he has to come and answer.”

Khoo said the right thing for Azam to do was attend the meeting and then give his reasons.

“Attend first. When we ask you questions, then you answer, even if you want to use the three excuses, not give excuses even before you appear before the committee. It is illogical and should not be done by the MACC chief.

“It will set a bad precedent for others called by the select committee or Public Accounts Committee.”