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Friday, August 30, 2013

The way of collective ministerial responsibility

The way of collective ministerial responsibility
After 56 years ruling the country, the BN government still does not understand the meaning of Cabinet collective responsibility.
Three ministers as well as the Prime Minister have ticked off the rookie deputy minister Waythamoorthy for criticising the police over the slaying of the five alleged gangsters.
They have told him that if he does not follow the principle of “collective responsibility” being part of the BN government, he should resign.
Waythamoorthy had questioned the manner in which the five suspects were killed and had called for an inquest into the deaths of the five youths to dispel the mistrust surrounding the police on probing their own alleged misconduct.
He had said that the photos of their injuries seemed to suggest that the five had been shot at point-blank range. He also questioned the nation's top cop’s ability to make such a swift conclusion that the five men had been involved in 10 murders and two attempted murder cases.
This has been the standard answer given by the police every time they killed criminals.
Waythamoorthy further said if it was true that police had been observing the five suspects for some time, there was no reason why they couldn't have been arrested instead of being shot dead at point blank.
Clearly, Waythamoorthy’s criticism was aimed at the police and their conduct. It was not any move or action that embarrassed or threatened the BN government’s grip on power.
He is not the first member of the BN government to treat the police as a distinct institution separate from the executive.
Remember how Dr Mahathir had claimed that Operation Lalang was initiated by the police and not by the government that he led.
Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi also saw fit to establish a Royal Commission to review the workings of the Malaysian Police Force after the many complaints against its conduct.
The police force, the armed forces and the civil service are clearly separate from the executive arm of the nation. So what do these ministers and the prime minister mean when they imputed that Waythamoorthy had breached the principle of ministerial collective responsibility?
Know your responsibility
“Cabinet collective responsibility” is a constitutional convention in governments using the Westminster System that ministers, deputy ministers and parliamentary representatives must publicly support all governmental decisions made in Cabinet, even if they do not privately agree with them.
This principle is usually practiced during any voting for the government in the legislature.
For example, if a vote of no confidence is passed in parliament, the government is responsible collectively, and thus the entire government resigns. Cabinet collective responsibility is not the same as individual ministerial responsibility, in which ministers are responsible and therefore culpable for the running of their departments.
In the Port Kelang corruption case, then Transport Minister Dr Ling Liong Sik has been held responsible although it was clearly a case of Cabinet collective responsibility.
On occasions, this principle may be suspended over such issues as the introduction of protective tariffs, or a referendum on whether the UK should remain in the European Economic Community.
In 2003, Clare Short managed to stay in the Labour cabinet despite her opposition to the 2003 Iraq War.
Under the present Conservative - Liberal Democrat Coalition Government, we have seen Liberal Democrat ministers frequently publicly criticising the actions of Conservative Cabinet members.
In this country, the real test will be seen when the government tries to introduce the GST or to take us into the TPPA or when Sarawak or Sabah or both decide to call for a referendum on whether to remain in the Federation.
It will be a case of the peoples’ representatives voting according to their conscience and political principles. When the time comes and if Dr Mahathir does become a rookie deputy minister again, we will know how he will vote on the question of the TPPA.
And when he does, will our three ministers and prime minister deal him a severe rebuke and tell him where to go?
The way of the NGO Politicians
This is the first rude awakening for Waythamoorthy, who rather naively thought he could reform the BN single handed. Even Gerakan with their many knights of the BN round table ended up being deformed by the BN.
We hope he will continue to voice the concerns of all justice-loving Malaysians and follow his conscience.
- themalaysianinsider.com

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