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Monday, November 20, 2023

Unanimous aye for Sarawak ombudsman bill


Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said the bill provides the legal framework for the Sarawak Ombudsman to supervise Sarawak’s public service agencies. (Bernama pic)

KUCHING: The Sarawak state assembly has unanimously passed the Sarawak Ombudsman Bill which creates the post of ombudsman to investigate complaints against the state’s public services.

The deputy premier, Awang Tengah Ali Hasan, said the report of the Ombudsman, including any finding, recommendation and opinion, will be fully published in the state assembly.

“Unlike the Public Accounts Committee (of the Dewan Rakyat), the report by the Ombudsman has legal force,” he told the state assembly when winding-up the debate. A total of 22 assembly members took part in the debate.

Awang Tengah said a special select committee of the assembly may be appointed upon a motion made under Standing Order to consider any matter arising from the report.

He said Sarawak government-linked companies would also be subject to investigations and scrutiny of the Ombudsman.

“On the right to remain silent and power of arrest… the procedures are meant for investigation of offences under the bill, it is not an investigation of complaint,” he said adding that

When tabling the bill, Awang Tengah said it provides the legal framework for the Sarawak Ombudsman to supervise Sarawak’s public service agencies, which encompasses the state civil service, local authorities, state statutory bodies, and government-linked companies.

“The purpose of this bill is to give the Ombudsman, among others, the power to receive, investigate, and resolve complaints including to dismiss any baseless and frivolous complaint and recommend corrective or preventive action to be taken by a state public service agency,” he said.

According to him, the bill has proposed offences such as intentionally giving false information, failure to appear upon receiving notice and wilful obstruction, hindrance of resistance to the ombudsman or any other person in the exercise of their powers.

“The penalties that can be imposed upon conviction are fines ranging from RM10,000 to RM50,000 and imprisonment ranging from six months to three years respectively or to both,” he said.

The bill provides for the appointment of a chief ombudsman and a deputy chief ombudsman along with three to five other ombudsmen who possess relevant expertise or experience.

They will be appointed by the Yang di-Pertua Negeri of Sarawak to a term of up to three years, with the possibility of reappointment.

The Sarawak Ombudsman’s office will be managed by a chief administrator, appointed from the state public services. The ombudsman staff and others acting on their behalf will be immune from civil and criminal proceedings in discharging their official duties. - FMT

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