MPs should not be treated like school-children empowering the Speaker to act like a  headmaster to edit their adjournment speeches and limiting the number of words they can use

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Thursday): The latest amendment to the Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders is most undignified, degrading and ludicrous, treating Members of Parliament like school-children empowering the Speaker to act like a headmaster  to edit their  adjournment speeches and limiting the number of words they can use in the 7.5 minutes allotted for each adjournment speech to 400 words.

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.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman