Two-week meeting testimony that Parliament is an antiquated institution which has failed to move with the times and completely out-of-sync with the people’s deepest fears, concerns and aspirations
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Friday): The just concluded eight-day meeting of the Dewan Rakyat is the latest testimony that the Malaysian Parliament is an antiquated institution which has failed to move with the times and completely out-of-sync with the people’s deepest fears, concerns and aspirations.
This was why in the past two weeks, Parliament failed to address many burning issues in the country, such as the rejection of the notice by the DAP MP for Bukit Mertajam, Chong Eng, to table a motion of urgent, definite public importance yesterday to debate the crisis of public confidence about citizen security as a result of the sharp rise of crime rate and increase of horrific crimes like the recent abduction, rape and murder of Canny Ong.
Ten women MPs from both government and opposition parties deserve commendation for putting aside their political differences to make a joint demand that the authorities take stern action to prevent rising crime, especially sex crimes, as well as thorough police investigations into the many unanswered questions about the Canny Ong case and special mention must be made of Chong Eng’s initiative in rallying women MPs round a common cause in coming out with the joint statement.
It was a poor substitute, however, for a full and wide-ranging debate in Parliament compelling government accountability and national awareness of the new crisis of confidence in public security of citizens, and it would have been better if all the women MPs regardless of party had taken an unanimous stand on the issue.
However, the question must be asked as to why the 170-odd male MPs kept their silence on this important issue when the basic security needs and rights of citizens to be protected by the police and to be free from the fear of crime including sex crimes should be the concern of all MPs regardless of gender, political party, race or religion!
Other burning issues which Parliament failed to address or do justice in the past two weeks include:
1. National Service Training Bill - Although the Barisan Nasional MPs used their overwhelming two-thirds parliamentary majority to pass the Bill and reject the motion by DAP MP for Batu Gajah, Fong Po Kuan to defer it for six months for deeper and more extensive public consultation, I do not believe any BN MP can explain why the National Service Training Bill to provide for three-month training to instil national unity and patriotism among youths is four times more draconian than the colonial National Service Act 1952 on two-year compulsory military service on criminal sanctions!
The National Service Act 1952 created a 10-year-jail offence which is five times longer than the maximum period of two-year compulsory military national service to defend the country; but the National Service Training Bill 2003 passed by Parliament on Wednesday created 10-year-jail offence which is 20 times longer than the maximum period of three-month “national service training” to inculcate national unity and patriotism.
I am prepared to meet up with any Barisan Nasional MP or Minister who can give an intelligent explanation as to why the National Service Training Bill, which should be more democratic in wanting to promote the principles of Rukun Negara, is four times more draconian and undemocratic than the 1952 colonial law.
2. Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma - Parliament failed to take the opportunity to set the lead in ASEAN to demand “constructive intervention” on Burma by being the first ASEAN Parliament to adopt an all-party resolution calling for immediate and unconditional release of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters as well as genuine tripartite political dialogue by the Myanmese military junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) with the National League for Democracy and the ethnic minorities on democratization and national reconciliation in Burma.
3. Human Rights – Continued abdication of responsibility in failing to provide effective oversight over the work of Suhakam and to debate a single one of the eight Suhakam reports which had been released in the past three years: the three Suhakam annual reports and five special reports, including Review of Internal Security Act, ISA detention conditions and on Freedom of Assembly.
4. Judicial accountability and transparency – to fully restore public confidence in the just rule of law and a truly independent judiciary.
Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuki Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi instructed government departments and agencies to update their websites to make them relevant and useful.
Parliament has just spent RM 42 million to give it a posh, five-star hotel aura, but its website continues to be one of the worst of all Malaysian public and world parliament websites – an international disgrace to Malaysia’s ambition to be at the cutting edge of information and communications technology. Although the Parliament website menu has sections for “Acts” and “Bills”, there is neither a single Act nor a single 2003 Bill available on the site.
DAP MPs had given notice to table three motions in the two-week meeting, on the SARS outbreak by Dr. Tan Seng Giaw (Kepong), restoration of local government elections (Fong Kui Lun - Bukit Bintang) and meritocracy and excellence in higher education (Fong Po Kuan – Batu Gajah) but the government refused to allocate time for them to be debated – another reason why Parliament has remained antiquated and out-of-sync with the deepest concerns, feelings and aspirations of ordinary Malaysians.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman