Thursday, May 04, 2006

Are Members Of Parliament Above The Law?

The questions:
1) Is interference in a government department investigation an offence?
2) Are members of parliament exempted from being charged for interfering in a government investigation?
3) By refusing to refer to the committee of privileges, a member of parliament who has admitted to interference, are the parliamentary backbenchers condoning a crime?

The plot: Read a part of a report in the NST today.
PUTRAJAYA: A Member of Parliament allegedly asked the Customs and Excise Department to "close one eye" in a case involving the import of sawn timber.It is learnt that the department has submitted a detailed report on the MP’s alleged interference into the seizure of sawn timber brought in from Indonesia at Sungai Linggi recently.The MP is said to have gone to the Malacca Customs Office on April 14 to "settle" the matter. He had allegedly requested that the department "close one eye" in handling the case....
....The agent of the Malacca-based company is said to have committed at least 14 offences this year alone. He is said to be trading in timber and sugar.The offences were committed at Sungai Linggi and Sungai Rambai, the State’s only barter trade points.A source said the MP met the state Customs director and the state preventive unit head sometime in the middle of last month, and asked them to show "leniency" and "close one eye". (NST)

The confession: Now it seems that the MP in the eye of the storm has come forward and said that he is the person whom the country is talking about. Jasin MP Datuk Mohd Said Yusof admits he's the MP mentioned in a report for allegedly telling Malacca Customs to 'close one eye' in the case.

The discussion: Why did the House reject a motion to probe a newspaper report about an MP who had allegedly asked the Customs Department to "close one eye" in a case involving the import of sawn timber? To protect one of its own? Because they don't consider interference of this kind an offence? Perhaps many of them do it off and on to help rich friends in trouble; so much so they think 'what's all the fuss about'!! Unfortunately for the main players, Shahrir Samad MP did not want to play ball. An offence is an offence he probably contended and supported referring the culprit, (for that is all he is), to the privileges committee. When this did not materialize, all hell broke loose. If Shahrir does not backtrack and goes ahead with his threat to quit the BBC, then this case would have its profile raised to an extent that Pak Lah probably has to step in.

The moral issue: By making laws alone the job of the MP is not over. He/she has to obey them too. You cannot 'close one eye' to the wrongdoings of an MP and expect the public to be understanding about it. If the Jasin MP is guilty then charge him. If they feel he is innocent then investigate him and if the charges are found to be baseless, exonerate him. But please don't elevate him to an 'above the law' status.

Dear Members of Parliament, the people are watching the developments on this one. Be warned.


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