Parliament should set up a five-man House Business Standing Committee comprising the Leader and Deputy Leader of the House, Leader and Deputy Leader of the  Opposition Leader to decide on the ordering of  parliamentary business

- DAP Members of Parliament Dinner
Lim Kit Siang

(Kuala Lumpur, Tuesday): When DAP MP for Cheras, Tan Kok Wai, showed me  the parliamentary schedule for the second session of the tenth Parliament which had been issued to all MPs, I was most surprised.

Firstly, six days (two days will be for Ministers’ replies)  have been set aside for the debate on the motion of thanks for the  Royal Address.  In the debate on the Royal Address in the ninth Parliament in April last year, more than eight  days were set aside for debate (including  two days for  Ministerial winding-up).

What is the reason for the slashing of eight-day debate on the Royal Address to six days?  Is this indicative that henceforth from the present parliamentary meeting, royal addresses would be given diminished attention and importance as in the past?

Next, the 2000 Budget will be presented by the Finance Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin on 25th February 2000 and the Budget debate will begin on 28th February 2000.

However, only nine  days have been set aside for the general debate ( including two  days for  Ministerial reply). As far as I can  recollect, the Malaysian Parliament had all along set aside 11 days (two of which is for Ministers’ replies) for the policy debate on the second reading of the budget bill.

This means that for the first time in the 41-year history of the Malaysian Parliament, the budget policy debate has  been slashed from the traditional 11 days to nine days,  the traditional nine-day debate for MPs slashed to seven days.

For the committee stage debate of the budget, the traditional 16-day debate has been slashed to 13 days.

All in all, this would mean that the traditional budget debate covering both policy and committee stages lasting 27 days have now been slashed to 22 days - a massive reduction of five  days of debate.

What is the reason for such an undemocratic abridgement of the right of MPs to speak up for the concerns of their constituents and the people during the debates on the Royal Address and the annual budget?

Who is responsible for arbitrarily deciding to slash the traditional parliamentary convention and tradition, backed up by parliamentary standing orders, that there should be 11 days for general debate and 16 days for committee stage debate for a budget?

In actual fact, when the standing orders were amended a few years ago, the maximum number of days for the committee stage debate for the budget was extended from 16 days to 18 days. But when it comes to practice, the impulse is to reduce rather than increase the number of days of debate.

An undemocratic and arbitrary  ordering of parliamentary business makes a complete mockery of parliamentary democracy in Malaysia.

Before the Malaysian political system can be democratised, the Parliamentary rules, practices and procedures should be democratised.

In his  speech at UNCTAD X in Bangkok on Saturday, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad called on international institutions, whether the United Nations, International Monetary Fund or the World Bank, to introduce  a more transparent decision-making process that reflects not just the views of  big business and big governments but those of the threatened small  business and small governments as well as NGOs.

Mahathir should give top priority to implement his call at UNCTAD X by introducing a more consultative national decision-making proces, starting with the Malaysian Parliament starting with four  immediate measures:

At present there is no Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Under the Members of Parliament (Remuneration) Act 1980, there is provision for a Leader and Deputy Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition. The time has come for the creation of the post of Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

MPs from both the Barisan Nasional and Barisan Alternative should be allowed to give inputs in the ordering of parliamentary business through their leaders.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman