Under the Standing Orders which had been in use in the Malaysian Parliament for over 40 years, a MP only needs to give notice of the main points of the subject intended to be raised in the adjournment speech to the Minister concerned and there is no need for the submission of the speech to the Speaker for prior editing and approval.
Until the 1999 general election, it was invariably the Opposition MPs who gave notice of their intention to deliver adjournment speeches on subjects which they wish to highlight in Parliament, and as the Opposition MPs were few in numbers, the Barisan Nasional abused their parliamentary strength by sabotaging the Opposition adjournment speeches by deliberatly creating a “no quorum” situation with BN MPs scrambling to leave the House during the occasion.
After the 1999 general election, with 45 Barisan Alternative and PBS MPs, the Barisan Nasional MPs could not sabotage the delivery of adjournment speeches as the Opposition could on their own ensure the presence of a quorum of at least 26 MPs.
As a result, the Barisan Nasional has resorted to the new-fangled proposal to allow the Speaker to edit and limit each adjournment speech to 400 words - which is most demeaning and degrading of the august status of Parliament as the highest deliberative and legislative chamber of the land by reducing it to the status of a schoolhouse!
What the Malaysian Parliament urgently needs are wide-ranging parliamentary reforms to make the Malaysian Parliament a more effective legislative and deliberative chamber and to give substance to the important principle of parliamentary control of the Executive, instead of nibbling and scraping away the limited spaces still allowed to MPs, particularly Opposition MPs, to ventilate the concerns and grievances of the people in Parliament.
In the past 30 years, Parliamentary Standing Orders had been amended many times, not to expand space for MPs, but to further curtail and emasculate parliamentary opportunities and space for MPs particularly from the Opposition to represent the voice of the people.
This is a retrograde process which must be deplored by all thinking Malaysians who want Parliament to be pertinent and relevant to their needs and aspirations and those of future generations.