Breaching cabinet's secrecy oath during a debate in the Dewan Rakyat is not a crime, opined former law minister Zaid Ibrahim.
"It is not a crime to violate cabinet secrecy. It is a norm or convention observed to facilitate effective rule of the party in power.
"In any event, it (the secrecy oath) only covers minutes of cabinet’s meetings and not the entire subject matter," Zaid told Malaysiakini.
Zaid, a former MP and veteran lawyer, said this when asked to comment on complaints against three former ministers who spoke on 1MDB related issues in the Dewan Rakyat during the debate on Budget 2017.
On Thursday, Dewan Rakyat speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia told reporters that former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, former second finance minister Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah and former rural and regional development minister Shafie Apdal may have broken their oath of secrecy during their speeches.
Muhyiddin, the Pagoh MP, said cabinet was not consulted on the formation of 1MDB and was kept in the dark about its finances until the scandal broke out.
Backbencher and Tambun MP Ahmad Husni questioned why 1MDB would only be paid for disposing a 60 percent stake in Bandar Malaysia in 2020.
Shafie, the Semporna MP, had asked the government to reveal what was the return of investment in 1MDB, which had received substantial government funding.
The police have confirmed that all three would be investigated under the Official Secrets Act 1972, following reports by Umno-friendly groups.
Zaid said there was no basis for police investigations against the trio if cabinet's secrecy principle was based on democracy.
"But since Malaysia is an autocracy, different rules may be applied by the police," he added.
Why didn't speaker stop them then?
Meanwhile, DAP parliamentary leader and Gelang Patah MP Lim Kit Siang said Muhyiddin, Ahmad Husni and Shafie were protected under parliamentary priviledges and warned action against the trio may constitute as obstruction of their duties.
"I would advise Muhyddin, Shafie and Husni to take a stand on principle of parliamentary privilege and to inform police officers that they would lodge police report against them for violating the law on parliamentary privilege if they persist in questioning them about their speeches in Parliament.
"They had not transgressed the sole exception where parliamentary immunity is excluded on the questioning on four entrenched 'sensitive' issues," said Lim in a statement today.
Lim said what Pandikar should have done was to defend and protect the trio for performing their duties in Parliament.
"I do not understand why Pandikar is breaking with such a parliamentary tradition by being in the forefront to publicly suggest that the attorney-general and the police should act against the trio.
"In fact, the speaker or deputy speaker concerned would have been guilty of gross dereliction of duty in not stopping an MP from 'abusing' his parliamentary privilege (when the speeches were made)," said Lim. - Mkini