DAP calls for far-reaching parliamentary reforms to make the Malaysian Parliament fit for the 21st century era of information and communications technology


Speech 2
DAP forum on Parliamentary Reforms 

by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Tuesday):  For over four decades, the Malaysian Parliament had cut itself off from the Commonwealth-wide process of parliamentary reforms and modernisations to make Parliaments more meaningful and effective for MPs to discharge the trinity of their functions - to legislate, to deliberate and to hold the government to account.  

For close to half a century, other Commonwealth Parliaments have produced tombs of reports on parliamentary reforms and modernisations, and experimented with a battery of  innovative ideas and proposals to make the legislatures  more authoritative and more respected by their governments to give substance to the principle of parliamentary democracy, where the government is  accountable to the people and it is the job of the legislature to ensure that that accountability is real and transparent, and that it is upheld.  

Malaysia, however, has treated with disdain and even contempt  such parliamentary reforms and modernisations in other Parliaments, like the establishment of specialist committees to shadow each Ministry and Opposition Day businesses.  

There had been many changes to the Malaysian  Parliamentary standing orders in the past four decades, but they invariably emasculate and not to expand the limited space available to Members of Parliament to be effective parliamentarians.  

DAP calls for far-reaching parliamentary reforms to make the Malaysian Parliament fit for the 21st century era of information and communications technology - and a visit to the Malaysian  dinosaurian parliamentary homepage will illustrate as to how unprepared is the Malaysian Parliament for the new century of ICT.  

There are many specific proposals for parliamentary reforms which should be given serious consideration so that Malaysian  MPs can fully discharge their triple functions to legislate, to deliberate and to hold the government to account, whether in revamping the question hour as to make PMQ (Prime Ministerís Question)  an important feature with the Prime Minister appearing at least twice a week of 15 minutes each  to personally answer questions; one specialist parliamentary committee for each Ministry; provision of top-flight parliamentary research services which is completely non-existent for the past four decades; Opposition business days where the Opposition decides on the parliamentary business to be transacted, etc. 

The time has also come to reform the Dewan Negara, which has failed as a revising chamber as intended by the 1957  Merdeka Constitution and  is nothing but a rubbish dump for political has-beens and rejects of  the ruling government  creating political cronies before there were economic cronies in the country.  

The 1957 Merdeka constitution was framed to provide for an elected element for the Senate in the future and 45 years after Merdeka, the Senate should be made more representative and democratic by the introduction of elected Senators apart from nominated Senators. 

The Senate should not continue to be the instrument of political patronage for the Prime Minister and appointments by political patronage should be abolished. The nominated Senators should be appointed by an statutory independent Appointments Commission strictly on an independent basis.   

Among the various measures which should be adopted to ensure that the Senate is reformed to become a more modern, representative, authoritative  and legitimate chamber is to  have permanent representation from the various major religious communities in Malaysia in the Senate.

(7/5/2002)


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman