Parliamentary Homepage a shame and disgrace and should be revamped immediately to make it interactive and a model of website for all other government agencies

(Prime Ministerís Department during the debate on the 1997 Supplementary Estimates)
by Lim Kit Siang

(Dewan Rakyat, Tuesday): On Saturday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed launched the "National IT Awareness" campaign as part of the national objective to leapfrog Malaysia into the Information Society, calling on all Malaysians to play a full part and not be spectators in the information revolution.

Parliament, as the highest political and legislative institution in the country, should play a vanguard role in this information revolution in Malaysia. However, the reverse is the case.

In May last year, it was suddenly announced that Parliament was launching its homepage - just to forstall further criticisms about the IT-backardness of Parliament in not even having a website.

However, for the last one-and-a-half years, the Parliamentary homepage had been a shame and a disgrace, providing no information whatsoever about what is happening in Parliament. Since the launch of the Parliamentary homepage, various big issues had been debated in Parliament, whether it be the Seventh Malaysia Plan, the 1997 Budget, the historic first four cyberbills or the recent debate on the national haze disaster.

Anyone who visited the Parliamentary homepage would not know of any such matters, as it only contains history of Parliament going back to 1955, making it no different from a musuem piece on the cyberspace.

A look at the websites of other Parliaments would show the great difference between their homepages and ours. The Singapore Parliament homepage for instance carries updates like questions for oral answer, orders of the day and notices of motion, questions for written answer and other data.

The homepages of the Australian Parliament, the House of Commons and the United States Congress are even more extensive.

The Australian and the UK Parliament websites give access to notice papers, votes and proceedings, Hansard which is the transcript of parliamentary proceedings, public bills, answers to questions, etc.

These are all not available on the Malaysian Parliamentary homepage. Anyone who wants to access public bills on the Internet would have to visit the DAP homepage.

After about 18 months of it launching, there are still many sections of the Parliamentary homepage, like feedback and guests, which are still "under construction".

The English version of the Parliamentary homepage was last updated on 20th February 1997 and the Bahasa Malaysia edition of the homepage last updated on 3rd March 1997.

It is clear that there is no commitment or mindset on the part of Parliament to make the Parliamentary homepage the example for other government agencies as to how to master and apply information technology in providing better services to the people.

This is most regrettable as it is so easy to make the Parliamentary homepage an interactive one which provides the most up-to-date information, as all materials whether parliamentary notices, answers to questions, Hansards or public bills, are available in electronic form and no extra effort is needed to upload them onto the website.

An all-party parliamentary committee should be formed to be responsible for making the Parliamentary website an interactive one and a pride to Malaysia.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong