KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Shahrir Samad yesterday dropped a bombshell by quitting as Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club chairman.
He was apparently unhappy that fellow MPs did not follow his cue and support a motion to refer the New Straits Times to the House’s Rights and Privileges Committee.
The motion was moved by Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang, following a report in the NST yesterday on an MP who allegedly asked the Customs and Excise Department to “close one eye” in a case involving the import of sawn timber.
Shahrir spoke in support of the motion but many backbenchers were not in favour of it, even after listening to Shahrir’s views.
The motion was rejected by the House after a 20-minute debate.
A few seconds later, a disappointed Shahrir gathered his papers and left the chamber, declaring in the lobby that he was quitting as BBC chairman.
No one expected this turn of events, when, before the start of question time, Lim rose to table his motion.
He said the report had cast aspersions on the House and its members. “I don’t know who the MP is and I do not intend that action be taken against the NST.
“However, I propose that the matter be referred to the Rights and Privileges Committee,” he said, adding this would enable everyone to know the truth.
Chong Eng (DAP-Bukit Mertajam) seconded the motion.
Speaker Tan Sri Ramli Ngah Talib said: “The report was written in such a way that it implied that an MP had instructed a government officer to close one eye on the case.
“Although it did not name the MP involved, it cast both the House and the MP in a bad light,” he said.
Datuk Raja Ahmad Zainudin Raja Omar (BN-Larut) said while he understood the need to defend the House’s integrity, the news report was just that — a report.
Datuk Mohamed Aziz (BN-Sri Gading) said an investigation should first be conducted on the matter.
Shahrir then stood up to say the motion was aimed at protecting the integrity of Parliament and its members.
“I see the committee as a tool for us to manage our own affairs. With the committee, witnesses from the Press and other relevant agencies can be called to enable us to make a decision. We are responsible for our actions and I agree with the motion.”
When Ramli called for a vocal vote, the majority was against the motion. Ramli declared the motion rejected.
KUALA LUMPUR: The Member of Parliament for Jasin, Datuk Mohd Said Yusof, has admitted that he asked the Customs and Excise Department to close an eye over a case involving the import of sawn timber.
He said he was the person mentioned in yesterday’s front page report in the New Straits Times.
"I am the one in the story. I went to the Customs office after I got a complaint from an entrepreneur from the Sungai Rambai port. The port is in my constituency," he said.
He said he went to the Customs office in his capacity as a Member of Parliament as well as a forwarding agent.
"I went there to ask the Customs officials to be lenient. They did their job in seizing the sawn timber but I went there to seek their help in getting the sawn timber released.
"I asked for the agent to be compounded and the timber released," he said calmly in the lobby.
Mohd Said admitted he asked the department to "close one eye" (tutup sebelah mata) and to let the consignment through after issuing a compound.
"The Customs Department was right in holding back the consignment. I only asked for the compound to be issued and the consignment to be released.
"But they seized it. I don’t know what happened after that," he said of his April 14 meeting with Customs officials at the Sungai Rambai Port office.
Mohd Said said his reason for asking the Customs Department to close an eye was based on a technicality.
He said the sawn timber had exceeded the cross-section of 60 inches, but this was debatable.
"Take into account the hole in the middle of the timber and the bark which would be shorn off, and the size would not have exceeded the 60 inches cross-section requirement for the import of sawn timber," he reasoned.
There would not have been any loss of revenue as there were no taxes or royalties to be paid to the Government, he said.
He, however, added that anything exceeding the 60 inches meant the sawn timber would have had to be classified as logs and this required an approved permit.
Mohd Said said he did not have an interest in the company of the agent who brought in the timber.
"Everybody knows I am a forwarding agent and an MP. I have operated an agency since 1990 and have an interest in the port.
"But I have no stake in the consignment which was brought in or the company which brought it in," he declared.
While debating the Supplementary Supply Bill on Tuesday, Mohd Said accused Customs Department director-general Datuk Abdul Rahman Abdul Hamid of not running his department properly.