Special Complaints Commission: MPs get their wish for more time to study bill

New Straits Times

Owing to widespread complaints and calls for more consultation, the cabinet yesterday decided to defer the Special Complaints Commission Bill 2007 to the next Dewan Rakyat sitting slated for March.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz said the move was to give MPs more time to study the bill's details.

"They (MPs) wanted more time and many complained the time provided to study and debate the bill was too short. Moreover, several non-governmental organisations had also been asking for more time," he said at the parliament lobby yesterday.

The bill was tabled last Thursday for first reading and scheduled for debate today.

"We are giving civil society more time to provide their feedback on the bill. This government is a listening government," he said acknowledging that the SCC had generated adverse reaction from a cross-section of the community.

Nazri pointed out that this was not the first time that such a bill had been deferred.

He said amendments could be forwarded to the Attorney-General's Chambers.

"We will look at it and take it from there. Changes can be incorporated into the bill at the committee stage. The government is open to suggestions."

He said the bill would now likely be read for the second time and debated next year, when the Dewan Rakyat begins a 23-day session on March 17.

Nazri said it was not possible to form a select committee to collate feedback at this juncture.

"It will take time. So the best option would be for those interested to just forward their suggestions to the Attorney-General," he said.

Asked why the government was in a hurry to table and pass the bill, Nazri said the government found itself in an ironic situation with the SCC.

"First, after the Royal Police Commission report, people said the government was dragging its feet on a complaints body for the police.

"So that is why it was tabled as soon as possible in the current session to meet everyone's requests. But now everyone is crying foul," he said.

Nazri said the government was committed to the bill and would still go ahead with it.

"The government is not backing down. We are deferring it to give everyone more time," he said.

Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang welcomed the bill's postponement.

"It is only natural that more time be given to seek feedback from civil society," he said.

Malaysian Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan said allowing non-governmental organisations to give feedback on the bill was a good decision.

"It's a wise move to get feedback because the bill has been watered down compared with the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) which was originally proposed," she said.

"The Bar will also be giving its views on the bill," she added.

Malaysian Human Rights Commission chairman Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman said the government was doing the right thing by delaying the debate.

"By listening to the stakeholders, the government is giving them an opportunity to get the public involved," said Abu Talib.

"Getting feedback is better than rushing the bill through parliament."

Former Transparency International Malaysia head Tunku Abdul Aziz and former United Nations special rapporteur Datuk Param Cumaraswamy in a joint letter to Nazri expressed their disappointment with the SCC.

Abdul Aziz and Param handed Nazri their letter following a short meeting in the lobby.

Representatives of 43 civil society organisations also submitted a memorandum to Nazri on the SCC bill.