Council of Ministers Secretary of State Tek Reth Samrach yesterday rebuked opposition lawmakers Ho Vann and Son Chhay over their criticism of a government directive forbidding ministry employees from dealing directly with lawmakers on corruption issues, calling both misinformed and accusing Chhay of “incitement and provocation”.
Samrach took aim at the pair for comments they made to the Post last week stating that a June 5 circular sent to government employees by the cabinet undermined the role of parliamentary commissions in fighting graft.
He warned the pair to “be careful” not to say anything that “violated the law” but ruled out legal action by the executive, saying it was up to National Assembly President Heng Samrin whether to take action over their comments.
“It is not the first time that those lawmakers have elaborated in bad faith,” Samrach said at a press conference at the Council of Ministers.
The document, released by Samrach on Thursday, told public servants they needed approval by their respective minister or superior before meeting with, or giving information to, lawmakers.
It also stated that, under the Anti-Corruption Law, data or complaints about graft must go to the Anti-Corruption Unit, which Van and Chhay called an attempt to block lawmakers, particularly Van’s commission on anti-corruption, from probing government wrongdoing.
In a statement given to reporters, Samrach rejected the notion that the directive – overseen by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An – contravened Article 96 of the constitution, which protects lawmakers’ right to question the government, saying Chhay “didn’t understand” the provision, which stipulated that only ministers, not officials, answer lawmakers’ questions.
Regarding the directive’s second point, Samrach said Ho Vann “apparently has not read the Anti-Corruption Law”.
He quoted Article 22 of the legislation, which says the ACU is “empowered” to investigate corruption offences and states that corruption complaints must be filed to the body.
He added that the directive “strengthened” the responsibility of officials and also slammed Chhay’s comments about the order starting a “war” between the legislative and executive.
“This is clearly an act of incitement and provocation attempting to ruin the indispensable cooperation between these two top national bodies,” he said.
Chhay stood his ground yesterday, instead calling on the government to explain why senior officials were trying to conceal information.
“By giving these strict guidelines to all of the officials, they are violating the right of the public to access information, and by using that sort of language they are looking down on the role of parliamentary committee groups and members of parliament,” Chhay said.
Van declined to discuss Samrach’s comments, but noted the need for the draft access to information law to be finished.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING SHAUN TURTON