Padungan rep: Proposed bill ‘half-baked’ if ministers, deputies excluded from ombudsman’s jurisdiction

Chong addressing a press conference in the Media Room of DUN Complex on Nov 20, 2023.

By Shikin Louis

KUCHING, Nov 20: Padungan assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen has described the proposed Sarawak Ombudsman Bill 2023 as ‘half-baked’ if the ministers and deputy ministers are excluded from the ombudsman’s jurisdiction.

He said the ministers and deputy ministers should be subjected to the same scrutiny by the ombudsman on the basis that a lot of administration comes from the ministers’ order.

“If the ministers and deputy ministers are excluded from the jurisdiction of the ombudsman, it is a very easy way out for the (civil servants being interrogated) to push away by saying that (the offence) is based on the order by the minister. Then, that is it, and the case is closed.

“Therefore, everyone should be equal before the law, and we should not pass a law that gives somebody or some positions to be above the operation of the law.

“With that observation, I hope the administration led by the Premier (Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg) will look into my proposal and consider some amendments to the bill,” he said when debating on the Sarawak Ombudsman Bill 2023 during the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting today.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Chong also questioned the definition of public service agencies, which does not include wholly-owned companies which use public funds.

He also said Clause 35 of the Bill regarding the power of arrest is “excessive and unnecessary” for the operation of the Ombudsman, calling for the Clause to be deleted.

“If (civil servants) are summoned and do not attend the investigation by the ombudsman, it is an offence by itself which carries the punishment of RM10,000 fine and imprisonment.

“That will imply that the person who refused to attend will have his service terminated and lose their pension and that punishment alone is sufficient to deter any civil servant from not attending the inquiry, so you don’t need physical force to arrest them and bring them to the inquiry,” he stated, adding that power of arrest need to be performed by trained officers or else, excessive force done by unprofessional officers would result in injury in the process.

Chong also does not sit well with the criteria of the ombudsman officers, of which the supporting staff of the ombudsman are recruited among the civil servants. — DayakDaily