Malaysian Parliament a dinosaur in Commonwealth in failing to keep abreast with changing times like other Parliaments

Media Conference Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): Yesterday, an academician and former Senator, Prof Datuk Dr. Syed Hussein Alatas  suggested the setting up of a centre to upgrade the intellectual level of  Members of Parliament in view of the key role they play in national affairs to ensure that they should know more about global and national issues.

I agree with Dr. Syed Hussein Alatas, whose proposal should be part of a far-reaching parliamentary reform to elevate  Parliament to play its full and rightful role as the highest legislative and political chamber in the country instead of being a mere rubber stamp of the Executive.

Dr. Syed Hussein  said during a  panel discussion at the National Education Conference that  if all sectors of the population, including the  workers, managers, universities and others are to be asked to enhance their  intellectual development, more so the MP's.

Dr Syed Hussein said MP's as legislators were at the centre of the country's  development and it was equally important for them to upgrade their  intellectual knowledge.

He said:  "If Parliament has various committees covering other matters, let's have one committee for self-improvement of the MP's. After all, there is no age limit to  learning new things and knowledge."

Dr. Syed Hussein is right in proposing a centre to upgrade the intellectual level of MPs but wrong when he said that Parliament has various committees on different matters.

The Malaysian Parliament is a dinosaur in the Commonwealth, which has failed to keep abreast with changing times like other Parliaments, setting up specialist committees involving Parliamentarians in various stages of policy formulation and decision-making process.

In the last Parliament, for instance,  I had repeatedly called for the establishment of a Parliamentary IT (Information Technology) Standing Committee to promote IT literacy among all sectors of the people and popularise the concept of the information society where Malaysia can fully benefit from the information and communication technologies.

During the Royal Address debate in March 1997, I suggested a programme to make all Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, Chief Minsiters, Mentri-Mentri Besar, State Executive Councillors, MPs and State Assembly members computer-literate within a year so that they can be  role-models to help Malaysians, particularly those above 40 years, to overcome their fear of computers - but this fell on deaf ears.

So long as there is no Parliamentary IT Committee to generate ideas and initiate ongoing discussions on the contours of the society Malaysia is building in its quantum leap into the Information Age, there can be no K-Parliament and no K-Government to make a success of a K-economy in Malaysia!

To have a K-Parliament, the Malaysian Parliament  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.

In a K-Parliament, Parliamentarians would be more gender sensitive and not make a fool of themselves as in the current meeting, with Barisan Nasional MPs unrepentantly and recalcitrantly making sexist remarks and committing sexual harassment against DAP women MPs - which is further compounded by the outrageous suggestion by the Barisan Nasional MP for Larut, Raja Datuk Ahmad Zainuddin in Parliament yesterday that women should cover up their aurat to avoid sexual harrassment - which is a typical male chauvinist justification for acts of sexual harassment in the workplace.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman