New Parliament should form 27 Specialised Select Committees and four General Select Committees to make MPs more effective and relevant to the needs of the people and country

to Barisan Alternative MPs from PAS, DAP and KeADILan
Lim Kit Siang 

(Kuala Lumpur,  Sunday): The new  tenth Parliament should form 27 Specialised Select Committees and four General Select Committees to make MPs more effective and relevant to the needs of the people and country.

Malaysia should emulate other Commonwealth Parliaments which have established a specialised committee for almost every Ministry to give greater meaning to the principle of parliamentary control and scrutiny of the Executive.

Such a committee system will make a great difference in the effectiveness of each individual MPís work in Parliament, as members would gain real knowledge of certain subjects and become truly effective in those spheres.

The House of Commons in the United Kingdowm has 34 Select Committees, including Public Accounts Committee, Procedure Committee, and Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privileges. Examples of specialised select committees are Agriculture Committee, Culture, Media and Sports Committee, Defence Committee, Deregulation Committee, Education and Employment Committee, Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee, Environment Audit Committee, European Scrutiny Committee, Food Standards Committee, Foreign Affairs Committee, Health Committee, Home Affairs Committee, Information Committee, International Development Committee, Modernisation Committee, Northern Ireland Committee, Science and Technology Committee, Scottish Affairs Committee, Social Security Committee, Trade and Industry Committee, Treasury Committee and Welsh Affairs Committee.

On 10th December 1999, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed appointed a very Jurassic Cabinet of 27 Ministers, which makes the appointment of Specialised Select Committees even more urgent and imperative.

Apart from the formation of 27 Specialist Select Committees to make every Minister answerable to a Select Committee, there should be four general Select Committees, viz:

The Barisan Nasional Government should table annual reports on women agenda, mass media, information technology and corruption  to Parliament - followed by an annual parliamentary debate on the reports.

In order to ensure that the new Parliament will be more consultative and reform-mined, a new parliamentary tradition must be established where the Opposition is appointed to head the Public Accounts Committee as well as to take one of the two Deputy Speaker posts.  Furthermore, more than half of the membership of the Public Accounts Committee should come from the Opposition.

To heighten parliamentary scrutiny of the Executive, the daily  one-hour question hour should be extended to two hours.

There should also be a new recognition that the Opposition in Parliament is an integral part of Parliament and Opposition business must be regarded and accepted as part of Parliamentary business just as government business.

There is no incompatibility between a strong government and a strong opposition, as both are necessary if there is going to be a strong Parliament.

The right of the Opposition to initiate parliamentary business must be accorded due recognition, by procedural provisions for instance, that for every Thursday the afternoon sitting  in the four-day Parliamentary week is  reserved for non-government business.

*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman