Fong Po Kuan has passed the six-month “baptism of fire” with flying colours, proving that “True Gold Fears No Furnace Fire” and  demonstrating her gut, gumption and grit to defend the people’s rights and to continue with vim, vigour and vitality to fight for her political convictions

- Perak DAP forum on Parliamentary Reforms
by Lim Kit Siang

(Ipoh,  Tuesday)Tonight’s forum on parliamentary reforms has been organized by Perak DAP to specially mark the end of the six-month victimization of the nation’s youngest woman DAP MP for Batu Gajah, Fong Po Kuan by a mindless, brutal and tyrannical  Barisan Nasional four-fifth parliamentary majority, punishing her by suspending her as an MP for six months without allowance – unheard and unprecedented in Commonwealth parliamentary history – for daring to discharge her parliamentary  duties to speak up for the people, particularly over the Certificate of Legal Practice (CLP) examination multiple scandals of leakage of examination questions and falsifying examination marks.  

I congratulate Fong Po Kuan for passing the six-month “baptism of fire” with flying colours, proving that “True Gold Fears No Furnace Fire” and demonstrating her gut, gumption and grit to defend the peope’s rights and to continue with vim, vigour and vitality to fight for her political convictions.  

Po Kuan is a credit not only to the voters  of Batu Gajah who elected her into Parliament  but also to the people of Perak and Malaysia, as well as to Malaysian women and youths, as a shining example that political idealism, selfless public service and dedication to the cause of the people are  not dead in materialistic and hedonistic Malaysia of  the 21st century – giving hope for  a better tomorrow where there is justice, freedom, democracy and good governance for all Malaysians.  

When Po Kuan returns to the Parliament chambers next Monday on June 17, she can hold her head high and  look in the eye all the Barisan Nasional Ministers and MPs, including the Speaker, who had brought shame and dishonour to Parliament and the Malaysian nation, locally and  in the international arena, with such a blatant abuse and flaunting  of majority strength in Parliament in utter  disregard of the basic notions of decency, justice and fair play.  

The Fong Po Kuan case is the latest illustration  that Malaysia does not have a strong Parliament and why the nation fails the three tests as to whether  there is  genuine representative democracy, a good and accountable government and whether Malaysians have a say in the decisions that affect their lives.

It does sound paradoxical to say that there  is no strong Parliament when  the Barisan Nasional commands four-fifth majority in Parliament and  the ruling coalition had   enjoyed unbroken two-thirds parliamentary majority in the past 44 years  since Independence.

But the strong Parliamentary dominance of the Barisan Nasional does not translate into a strong Parliament and is actually  the cause for the emasculation and castration of Parliament by a domineering Executive which, particularly in the past two decades, had relentlessly encroached into Parliamentary privileges and usurped Parliamentary powers – producing an effete, impotent and even useless Parliament.

This is why when for close to half a century, Commonwealth Parliaments had produced tombs of reports on parliamentary reforms and modernizations, and experimented with innovative ideas and proposals to make the legislatures more authoritative and respected by their governments to give substance to the principles of parliamentary democracy and accountable government, Malaysia has gone backwards.

Other Commonwealth Parliaments have set up specialist committees, even with one committee for each Ministry to monitor and hold the government to account, but Malaysia has not only  refused to embark on the road of parliamentary reform,  traditional Select Committees, like the Privileges, Standing Orders and House Committees have been stripped of their functions and powers although they continue to exist in name.

Fong Po Kuan’s case, for instance, should be referred to the Committee of Privileges of the Dewan Rakyat for an inquiry as to whether she had committed any breach of privilege, but the over-mighty Executive decided that reference to the Privileges Committee was superfluous when it had the four-fifth majority to  allow it to be prosecutor, judge, jury and executor all in one and turn Parliament into a “kangaroo court”.

This had also been the plight of the House and Standing Orders Committees, existing only in name but effectively denuded of their functions by the  Executive, which decides how the Speaker should decide in Parliament!

The first step to restore Parliamentary democracy where Parliament is the keystone of democractic accountability of government and  cease to be  the rubber-stamp of the Executive, is to elect  a strong Parliament to ensure greater checks and balances in our system of government.

The unbroken two-thirds parliamentary majority of the ruling coalition is the fatal flaw of the Malaysian system of parliamentary democracy, creating  not a strong Parliament but a strong Executive and even stronger Prime Minister rendering Parliament effete, impotent and even useless to carry out effectively the trinity of its functions to legislate, to deliberate and to hold the government to account.

There is no chance or hope whatsoever for meaningful parliamentary reforms to restore a meaningful system of parliamentary democracy  unless the political hegemony of the ruling coalition is broken by bringing to an end its  suffocating uninterrupted  two-thirds parliamentary majority.  

Only then is it possible to restore Parliament as a place where the Executive is held properly to account by Members of Parliament, where the Government policy is first announced and tested and where the terms of trade between the Government and Parliament are shifted back in favour of  the latter.             

Let the  Fong Po Kuan case of victimization highlighted by a too strong Executive and too weak Parliament be an eye-opener to Malaysians as to why they should rally behind the call to attain the elusive goal in Malaysian history in the next general election to deny the Barisan Nasional its unbroken two-thirds parliamentary majority and to crush once and for all its political hegemony – to allow the flowering of democracy, freedom and a vibrant civil society.  


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman