Tun Zahir, who makes history as a six-term Speaker, should make greater history by responding to the Prime Minister’s call for “change of mindset” in supporting a Reform Parliament with far-reaching parliamentary reforms
by Lim Kit Siang
(Ipoh, Monday): I welcome the re-appointment of Tun Mohamed Zahir Ismail as the Speaker of Parliament, which he has confirmed with the media.
Tun Zahir, who will make history as a six-term Speaker after presiding over the Dewan Rakyat for 22 years, should make greater history by responding to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s call for “change of mindset” in supporting a Reform Parliament with far-reaching parliamentary reforms.
Speaking in Felda Lakom, Temerloh on Saturday, Abdullah rightly said that changing the mindset of the people must be a national priority in order to achieve Malaysia’s aspirations to be a fully developed nation.
Stressing that the will to change must come from every Malaysian, Abdullah said: “We cannot become a nation that is really developed if there’s no change in the mindset. It’s easy to physically change the river’s course but not that easy to change how a person think.”
He also rightly advised leaders to “lead by example” as “when leaders do well, so will the people”.
Parliament, as the highest political chamber of the land, should set the most important example of “change of mindset” to end the Malaysian malaise so eloquently diagnosed and described by Abdullah of “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” – starting with the unanimous recognition by all MPs, whether Barisan Nasional or Opposition, that Malaysia has a Third World Parliament which must be swiftly upgraded to First World Parliament.
It is almost a month and I am still waiting for an appointment with the Prime Minister to discuss a common agenda for the 11th Parliament to play a pivotal leadership role to end the Malaysian malaise of “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” by making it a Reform Parliament to spearhead the nation’s full entry into first-world status in the era of globalization, liberalization and information and communications technologies.
Malaysia had a “first-world” Parliament Building for over four decades since 1962 but had never had a first-world Parliamentary institution and culture.
In his maiden official speech in Parliament as the fifth Prime Minister on Nov. 3, 2003, Abdullah pledged to fully respect parliamentary democracy and the separation of powers between the executive, legislature and the judiciary.
Parliament should be the first institution in the country to restore public confidence and to uphold the doctrine of separation of powers with far-reaching parliamentary reforms to make it a meaningful and effective national legislature and the highest political forum in the land.
In the past two decades, Parliament’s stocks have never been lower as it has been reduced to be a mere rubber-stamp of the Executive, with Members of Parliament, whether government or opposition, denied of any meaningful role in the various stages of legislation and policy-making – undermining and damaging the delicate checks and balances vital to the healthy growth of a mature democracy and a vibrant civil society, as envisaged by Vision 2020.
As compared to other Commonwealth Parliaments, the Malaysian Parliament missed decades of parliamentary reforms to make Parliament a meaningful, relevant and effective national legislature such as with innovations like the establishment of specialist standing committees to allow MPs to specialise as well as having a greater say in the nation’s decision-making process. In Malaysia, the principle of Cabinet responsibility to Parliament has been completely subverted into Parliamentary responsibility to the Cabinet!
It is clear that Abdullah’s call for “change of mindset” has not sufficiently permeated to all levels of the government leadership, as demonstrate by continuing negative reactions by Cabinet Ministers and Barisan Nasional leaders to proposals for parliamentary reforms to transform the Malaysian Parliament from a nineteenth-century institution into a millennium Parliament, with reforms such as:
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman & Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor