Press Statement

Wrong for the Dewan Rakyat Speaker to berate and caution journalists

28 July 2017

Lawyers for Liberty view with extreme concern the conduct of Dewan Rakyat Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia yesterday when during an extensive press conference, he berated the press on their coverage of parliamentary proceedings. He likened his position to a judge and cautioned that any unfair or misreporting could amount to contempt of the Dewan Rakyat. He further cautioned, that those who disparaged the Dewan Rakyat could go behind bars and gave the example of a case in India where two newspaper editors were cited for contempt.

The Speaker’s remarks whether intended as a joke or a veiled threat, are certainly ill advised and uncalled for. The Speaker should know better that journalism is not a crime and the journalists were merely performing their role in a democracy to report on matters of public importance.

Pandikar’s role as the Speaker cannot escape public scrutiny as the public has high expectations of his role as the highest authority of the Dewan Rakyat. His conduct in rejecting a record number of questions and shutting down any meaningful discussion on 1MDB is certainly an abuse of power and undemocratic to say the least. If he does not want the press to report unflatteringly on his conduct, then he should conduct himself better, be fair to all the parties and not attract controversy.

As the Speaker, he can only inspire public confidence and respect through his conduct, in and out of the Dewan Rakyat, to give the appearance of impartiality, independence and integrity – not by defending himself in a press conference or berating the press.

The Dewan Rakyat should be a place for genuine democratic practices, for debates, for questions and answers, not shutting down discussions on technicalities and strained interpretation of parliamentary rules.

We call upon Pandikar to go back to basics, on what it means to be the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat. It is essential that he must remain politically impartial at all times, and let democratic processes flourish, lest he be accused of being the Speaker only for the government.

Released by:
Eric Paulsen
Executive Director
Lawyers for Liberty