DAP proposes formation of
ten Select Committees in current meeting - Parliamentary reform and
modernization, national Integrity, human rights, quality of education,
national competitiveness, IT, FELDA and the marginalization of the Indian
Speech (Part 8)
- in the debate on the Motion of Thanks for the Royal Address
by Lim Kit Siang
(Dewan Rakyat, Thursday): Although the DAP has proposed fully moving into the Select Committee system as a bold step to make the Malaysian Parliament a First-World Parliament, with the establishment of some 30 specialist departmental Parliamentary Select Committees with a Select Committee for every Ministry and about ten general Parliamentary Select Committees to produce annual reports on progress, trends and recommendations on important national issues, it is probably setting the bar too high to expect these proposals to be fully accepted immediately.
I welcome the commitment of the government to set up two Select Committees so far – one on National Unity and Integration, whose first agenda is to review the national service training programme, and the other on the Criminal Procedure Code Amendment particularly with specific reference to enhancing penalties to curb sex crimes.
The first meeting of the 11th Parliament should set up at least ten Select Committees (including the two which the government has agreed) to demonstrate the seriousness of the commitment to make the Malaysian Parliament a “First World Parliament” as well to show the nation and the world the difference of the first and current meeting of Parliament in setting a serious pace of parliamentary reform and modernization.
These ten Select Committees should focus on the following themes:
I do not need to tarry on the first three proposals, but let me touch on the other seven suggestions for the formation of Select Committees.
If the country is serious about national integrity, an all-out war against graft and creating a new political culture of zero tolerance for corruption, then Parliament must play a leading and proactive role and not just be a passive bystander.
There should be an all-party standing committee on national integrity to review and monitor the performance of the Anti-Corruption Agency in the war against corruption, conduct corruption hearings and investigations and set and pursue a national integrity agenda..
Parliament had been remiss in its duties and responsibilities in the past four years when it completely ignored the Suhakam annual reports, and there was not a single time when Parliament held a debate on the three annual reports submitted to the House by Suhakam.
When Parliament enacted legislation to set up Suhakam to promote and protect human rights, requiring the Human Rights Commission to submit annual reports to Parliament, it was clearly the parliamentary intent that Suhakam is required to function diligently and conscientiously in accordance with its statutory remit – with Parliament exercising oversight over its operations.
Parliament however totally failed in exercising any oversight over Suhakam, an omission which must be immediately put right if Parliament is to become a First World Parliament.
In this connection, I wish to ask the Suhakam Chairman Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman why Suhakam has not yet presented its 2003 Annual Report to Parliament – as it is long overdue.
I do not know whether the delay is because of Suhakam or the government. The first Suhakam Annual Report was presented by the inaugural Suhakam Chairman Tan Sri Musa Hitam directly to the Speaker, Tun Zahir Mohd. Ismail in April 2001, but this led to strong objections from the Foreign Ministry which at the time had responsibility in the government on Suhakam. As a result, Suhakam reports had to be submitted to the Foreign Ministry, which will then table it in Parliament.
This is unnecessary and insupportable red-tape and bureaucracy. The Human Rights Commission Act requires Suhakam to submit its report to Parliament, and not to submit it to whichever Ministry has been made responsible for Suhakam for onward transmission to Parliament, and I call for the restoration of the original practice where Suhakam submits its report directly to Parliament and not through any government agency.
I agree that at the same time that Suhakam submits its annual report to Parliament, it should extend a copy to the relevant Ministry concerned, which should present a memorandum to Parliament commenting on the Suhakam reports pertaining to government departments – in the same way that a Treasury memorandum is required to accompany the submission of the Auditor-General’s Reports to Parliament, giving the government’s side on the Auditor-General’s criticisms.
Quality of Education
The quality of education in the country has fallen drastically over the years. In the sixties, the University of Malaya enjoyed international repute and standing, but by the time of the Asiaweek 2000 Best Universities in Asia-Pacific, it had fallen to the lowly 47th position out of 77 universities in the region.
If the government is not careful, a time will come when private universities and colleges will have higher prestige in terms of academic quality and excellence than the public universities!
For a start. meritocracy should be restored as the primary yardstick for all academic standards, whether student selection, academic assessments or appointments and promotion of the academic staff. Let us begin with a common university entrance examination for public universities for all Malaysian students – whether could be either the STPM or the matriculation examination.
The ability of the nation to ceaselessly enhance its national competitiveness will be the key to our ability to stake our rightful place in the international marketplace in this era of globalization, liberalization and information and communications technology. Many factors make up a nation’s competitiveness which should be closely studied and monitored by a Select Committee.
Some eight years ago, I had proposed an all-party parliamentary committee on IT, in particularly to spearhead a programme of “IT for All”. It is most regrettable that Parliament had failed to make full use of the past eight years to be a major player in the campaign for Malaysia to take the quantum leap into an information society.
There are now in the public gallery settlers from the Felda Sendayan near Seremban –one of the earliest Felda schemes established in the country in 1962. They are here to draw the attention of Parliament and the Cabinet to the long-standing grievances of the 500 settler-families or some 5,000 people in the scheme.
Their first grievance was the irregular and improper issue of a licence for sand mining by the Negri Sembilan state authorities in the vicinity of the settlement, posing hazards to the environment, health and safety of the settlers despite the many formal objections by the state Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID).
It is most regrettable that the new Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar, who is the state assemblyman for Felda Sendayan, is completely helpless in righting a blatant wrong.
Their second grievance is their plight in becoming “instant landless” although they were promised that they would be “instant millionaires”. This is what they said in a memorandum submitted to the Parliamentary Opposition Leader’s Office a while ago:
“Pada tahun 1996 pihak Kerajaan Negeri Sembilan telah mengambil hampir kesemua geran tanah penduduk Felda Sendayan. Semua penduduk diperdaya untuk bersetuju menjual tanah mereka kononya dengan bayaran RM1.1 juta bagi setiap lot yang diambil. Sehingga kini kami masih tidak mengetahui perkembangan sebenar isu ini. Kami umpama pelarian ditanah sendiri apabila tidak mempunyai tanah.”
Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced last month the formation of a “think-tank” to “revolutionalise” Felda to enhance the image, dignity and living standards of the one million Felda settlers in 275 Felda schemes in the country.
Najib and the Felda think-tank should immediately address the long-standing grievances of the settlers of Felda Sendayan if they are serious about efforts to “revolutionise” the livelihood of the second and third-generation Felda settlers.
Marginalisation of Indian community into the underclass
During the 2004 general election, the “Group of Concerned Citizens” in its paper “Election 2004: New Politics for Indian Malaysians” had summarized nine long-standing fundamental issues faced by Indian Malaysians:
These nine fundamental issues afflicting the Indian community, marginalizing them into the new underclass in Malaysia, should be the terms of reference of a Select Committee on the marginalization of the Indian community in the country.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader,
Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman