The tenth  Parliament should be more consultative and committed to reform, starting  with the appointment of a Deputy Speaker from Barisan Alternative

meeting of  DAP MPs/State Assemblymen/candidates
Lim Kit Siang 

(Petaling Jaya,  Sunday): After announcing his new Cabinet line-up on Friday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said the new Parliament would be convened on 20th December 1999 where the 2000 Budget would be tabled, together with the baffling remark that "according to the procedures there will be no debate".

The tenth Parliament should be more consultative and committed to reform and there is no better start than for the appointment of a Deputy Speaker from Barisan Alternative.

According to Standing Order (1) of the Dewan Rakyat, on the first day of the meeting of the  new Parliament after a general meeting, there are three businesses, namely:

After the conclusion of these items of business, "the House shall stand adjourned to the date and time fixed by His Majesty for the declaration of the causes of summoning a Parliament".

The Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Datuk Fadzil Nor should be consulted as to who is to be the Speaker of the tenth Parliament, whether Tun Zahir Ismail would be asked to serve a fifth term or whether the Barisan Nasional has a new candidate in mind.

Two new Deputy Speakers will have to be appointed.  Former Deputy Speaker Datuk Ong Tee Kiat has been appointed Deputy Youth and Sports Minister while Datuk Juhar Mahiruddin, the other former Deputy Speaker, was dropped from the Barisan candidate line-up.

It would be a good start for a more consultative and reform-minded Parliament if one of the two Deputy Speakers is  nominated from among  the Barisan Alternative MPs.

I am baffled by Mahathirís Friday remark that the 2000 Budget would be tabled in Parliament on Dec. 20 and "according to the  procedures there will be no debate".

Mahathir had been wrongly advised to make such a remark.

In the first place, it will not be possible for the Finance Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin, to table the 2,000 Budget, even if it is unchanged from the one presented in Parliament on Oct. 29, 1999, on Dec. 20, as that day would be reserved for the electing of the Speaker and the swearing in of the 193 MPs - after which, Parliament "shall stand adjourned" until convened by the Yang di Pertuan Agong.

Even if Parliament is to be convened in emergency meeting, it can only be done for the following day, i.e. Dec. 21, 1999.

But the 2,000 Budget cannot be tabled on Dec. 21, 1999, as what the government has to do is to table a contingency finance bill under Article 102(1) of the Federal Constitution to authorise  government expenditures to be made from 1st January 2000 even before the passage of the 2,000 Budget, so that the government would not grind to a halt without a single sen to spend as it would be impossible for Parliament to approve the 2,000 budget by the end of the year.

Mahathir is wrong if he claims that "according to procedures there is no debate" for such a bill.  In fact, three days should be set aside for debate on this contingency finance bill to demonstrate that the new Parliament would become a fulcrum of democracy in Malaysia and not just another rubber-stamp for the Executive.

In December 1990, the eighth Parliament which was elected on Oct. 21, 1999 passed a contingency finance bill to authorise government expenditures for four months as the 1991 Budget could not be passed by the end of the year.  I think the government this time would have to ask Parliament for a contingency finance bill covering six months of next yearís expenditures as I do not think Parliament can pass the 2,000 Budget until April or even May next year.

The greatest blemish of the new government is that although there are an unprecedented number of 20 women MPs, the new cabinet has only two women Ministers as compared to three in the previous Cabinet.

It would be a good idea for the 20 women MPs to form a Parliamentary women MPs caucus where they could act in concert to promote the women agenda. Women MPs should rise above party differences and unite on a common platform to promote women issues and the Women Agenda for Change in the new Parliament.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman