KUALA LUMPUR, 30 June 2009: The proposed RM1,000 fine of Umno Youth members for obstructing DAP Member of Parliament (MP) Karpal Singh from entering Parliament in late February was too lenient, opposition MPs said today.
“Now anyone may come to Parliament to hinder the work of MPs, and get slapped with only a fine,” Karpal told a press conference in Parliament today.
“The incident was very serious. The RM1,000 fine will not give the right message to those who want to harass MPs,” he added.
Karpal was responding to a parliamentary select committee‘s decision to fine four Selangor Umno Youth members for their involvement in a fracas with the Bukit Gelugor MP, under the Houses of Parliament Act (Powers and Privileges) 1952.
On 26 Feb 2009, a group of Selangor Umno Youth members had obstructed Karpal from entering the House. The men had demanded that Karpal apologise for a statement he made in the Dewan Rakyat, alleging that the youth wing was responsible for two rounds of live ammunition he had received in the mail.
The parliamentary select committee investigating the fracas was headed by Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia, and is expected to present its findings in Parliament on 1 July 2009, so that it may be adopted by the House.
Karpal with other parliamentarians during the press conference
Karpal said that the opposition would insist that Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Musa Hassan investigate the incident, if the select committee’s decision was tabled for debate.
“The IGP thinks that the police has no jurisdiction in an incident that happened in Parliament. That is ridiculous,” Karpal said, citing Section 124 of the Penal Code.
Section 124 of the Penal Code provides for anyone assaulting an MP “with intent to compel or restrain the exercise” of the MP’s lawful powers to be punished with imprisonment for up to seven years, with the possibility of a fine.
According to Karpal, the Houses of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Act should also be amended to reflect the seriousness of such an offence. Under the Act, the RM1,000 fine is currently the maximum penalty for those found to be in “contempt of the House”.
The opposition MPs also criticised the select committee’s decision to admonish eight opposition MPs for failing to assist in its investigations.
Five MPs — Karpal himself, Fong Po Kuan (Batu Gajah-DAP), Lim Lip Eng (Segambut-DAP), N Gobalakrishnan (Padang Serai-PKR) and Fong Kui Lun (Bukit Bintang-DAP) — are set to be chastised for not appearing before the committee as witnesses.
Lim Kit Siang (Ipoh Timur-DAP), Datuk Kamarudin Jaffar (Tumpat-PAS), and R Sivarasa (Subang-PKR) will also face admonishment, as they were part of the select committee but later withdrew.
Karpal explained that the MPs did not attend the select committee’s hearing because they felt its course of action was inadequate.
“It is an insult to our intelligence to be admonished by the House,” Karpal said.
“Punishing an MP for not attending a meeting is something that has not happened before,” said Kamarudin.
“The committee proceeded with their investigations, and did not need us. So why are we being punished? There ought to be debate on this matter,” Kamarudin added.