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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ample time was given to debate Section 114A, insists Nazri

Ample time was given to debate Section 114A, insists Nazri
PUTRA JAYA - Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz yesterday insisted that MPs had been given ample time to debate the controversial Section 114A of the Evidence Act without any time restriction when it was tabled in April.
He said the four-hour debate did not see strong objections from the Opposition as there was no walking out or call for division voting from them.
He took to task Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee for making "sweeping statements" that the government should have conducted a public consultation before tabling the amendment.
"There is no other system of engaging the public. I don't know what Chee Wee meant that there is no public engagement," said Nazri, who is the de facto law minister. "MPs are elected by the people and they are the legitimate voice of the people.
"The bill went through the proper process of being tabled, debated and passed by the legitimate voice of the people – who are the MPs."
Lim had on Tuesday said that the uproar caused by the amendment is a lesson to be learnt by the government, as there is a need to establish a permanent policy on the lawmaking process – either by way of a law reform commission or through public consultation.
Lim had said this in response to Nazri's announcement that the attorney-general (AG) would "explain Section 114A" to the public.
Nazri yesterday said the government has introduced thousands of amendments and new laws after engaging with relevant stakeholders.
"What kind of engagement is he talking about? We only engage stakeholders and (in this case) the Bar Council was one of them.
"It is impossible to engage (the entire) public whenever we want to make amendments; it's not practical … so we only engage with stakeholders.
Nazri said that Lim should also practise what he preaches by engaging his own members too.
"Chee Wee should not just ask us to engage with the public, he too must engage his members if they agree with him on his statement because I have been made to understand that a lot of his statements are not supported by the members.
"For example, the Bar Council's stand on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) … Many of the members were not engaged and when they made the decision to support LGBT, they forgot that almost 50% of the members are Malay Muslims who were very unhappy with the stand.
"They were never consulted on this so don't preach to us what you yourself did not do," said Nazri.
When contacted yesterday, Lim told theSun there is a distinction between the decision-making process by lawmakers whether to vote in favour of bills tabled in Parliament and consultation by government with the public or stakeholders before the bill is finalised.
"Consultation with the public would have avoided the present furore," he said. "It is also implicit that the public are entitled to an explanation of this amendment, proven by various statements made by cabinet ministers that the AG will explain the amendments to the public."
However, Lim felt that ongoing discussions should still continue on alternative ways of dealing with anonymous postings and determination of the proper balance of free speech, peace and order.

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