Thursday, May 17, 2007

Dompok quits parliamentary integrity panel

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Bernard Dompok today resigned as chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Integrity, just a day after the committee cancelled a meeting to discuss forged identity cards.

Although his statement on the reason for his shock decision was vague, it is learnt it had to do with the National Registration Department (NRD)'s refusal yesterday to appear before the committee to clarify certain issues pertaining to the issuance of identity cards in Sabah.

According to The Sun it was not the first time a government department had declined a request from the committee to help it do its work.

Except for the Public Accounts Committee, other parliamentary select committees are not empowered to compel witnesses to come before them.

Dompok's statement said his committee had been scheduled to meet in Parliament yesterday to continue an ongoing hearing where the NRD was to clarify "certain issues pertaining to issuance of identity cards in Sabah". He said the committee requested the clarification following submissions by various non-governmental organisations and individuals to the committee on the matter.

"The NRD had, by letter dated May 11, 2007, informed the select committee that they would not be attending the hearing," he said.

"As chairman of the committee, I therefore agreed not to proceed with the meeting as there was no other item in the agenda for that particular meeting. I have since reflected on my position as chairman of the committee and have decided to resign from the committee."

"I feel that as a member of the cabinet, I may not be able to do justice to the tasks assigned to the committee by Parliament. I have conveyed my decision to the Yang di Pertua Dewan Rakyat (Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib)."

Contacted later for elaboration, Dompok said: "It was a difficult decision for me to make. But in order to serve the best interest, the objective of the committee, I have made this decision."

Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang, who is a member of the committee and had earlier criticised the meeting cancellation decision, said he hoped Dompok's resignation would not paralyse the committee. The committee was looking into allegations that identity cards had been granted to foreigners, as a result of which there are now 1.75 million foreigners in the state (Sabah).

From The Sun 17th May 2007. By: Pauline Puah