Friday, November 22, 2013

SEE CHEE HOW'S SPEECH AT THE STATE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY 22 NOV 2013



Datuk Amar Speaker,

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to participate in the debate of the Supply Bill 2014 Bill 2013 tabled in this Honourable Dewan on 18 November 2013.

I am proud that, with the abundance of our resources, the diversity and exemplary human resources, this august House can present a spectacular budget 2014 of almost RM5 billion, more than double the budget of the other states in Semenanjung Malaysia.

The magnitude of our state budget is fitting and apposite to our Honourable Dewan which is the preeminent state legislative assembly in the country.

Datuk Amar Speaker,

The proud history of this Honourable Dewan, as stated in the official website, is the oldest legislative assembly in Malaysia and it dated back to 1867 when the first Majlis Umum (General Council) was held in Bintulu on 8 September. It could have dated back earlier, to 1865 when the first Rajah formed the Council Negeri in Sibu with members in the Supreme Council which he actually established in 1855, important officers of his government and important native chiefs.

Today, we are working in a majestic DUN building, on a hill and by a river, an envy of other parliamentary assemblies in the Commonwealth which are located either on a hill or by a river, and not both.

Datuk Amar Speaker,

This Honourable Dewan is not just a beautiful building. In my humble opinion, most of our Honourable members in this august House are trying and doing their best to serve their constituents and this Honourable Dewan.

It is my honour to be a member of this Honourable State Assembly, and having served the Honourable Dewan for more than 2 and a half year, I have made inquiries and examined the roles of our Honourable members of the House hoping that our noble Sarawak Legislative Assembly can advance and progress and thereby perform a more dynamic and functional role in the governing of our beloved State and, at the same time, preserve and uphold our proud record as the preeminent state assembly in Malaysia.

That the August House initiates its own reform and transformation is also opportune as our recent remuneration adjustment for all Honourable members have raised the expectations of the general electorates towards the performance of our elected members.

My humble reading into this subject has taken me into numerous well researched studies that have identified the structural weakness in the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy that we have inherited and they have also revealed the various parliamentary reforms that have been undertaken to redress the inherent problems in the system.

Over the years, most countries have initiated and implemented parliamentary reforms to address the inherent problems which are aimed at restoring the independence of their country’s legislative arm of government. Our Malaysian Parliament had set up a Parliamentary Review Committee in 2010.

In the context of our State and the Honourable Dewan Undangan Negeri, we can take notice that the business of government is heavy and wide-ranging today, and we cannot expect all our State Assembly members to be informed about every issue that is affecting the State. In my humble opinion, learning the lessons from the other parliamentary legislative assemblies, our Honourable Dewan can make constructive and effectual recommendations on how the governance and government can be improved.

Datuk Amar Speaker,

Allow me to elaborate a little on the varieties and forms on parliamentary reforms with parliamentary committees and select committees, drawing examples from India and the United Kingdom. There are other examples to be studied, including the United States of America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand with purposeful functions and compositions of which we can ensue.

Parliamentary Reforms and Parliamentary Committees/Select Committees

The Parliament of India was one of the first to recognize the needs for reform and carries out the necessary with the appointment of parliamentary committees, dated back to 1919.

Giving emphasis to the parliamentary committees, it is stated, in their words:

“The work done by the Parliament in modern times is not only varied in nature, but considerable in volume. The time at its disposal is limited. It cannot, therefore, give close consideration to all the legislative and other matters that come up before it. A good deal of its business is, therefore, transacted in Committees of the House, known as Parliamentary Committees”.

A Parliamentary Committee means a Committee which is appointed or elected by the House or nominated by the Speaker and which works under the direction of the Speaker and presents its report to the House or to the Speaker and the Secretariat.

Parliamentary Committees are of two types: Standing Committees and Ad hoc Committees.

Ad hoc Committees are appointed for a specific purpose and they cease to exist when they finish the task assigned to them and submit a report.
                                                         
The Standing Parliamentary Committees and Departmentally Related Standing Committees (DRSCs) are sessional.

As far as possible, different Parties and Groups are represented on Committees in proportion to their respective strength in the House. As such a Committee is a microcosm of the whole House.

The Parliamentary Committees may appoint sub-committees, take evidence or call for documents, send for persons, papers and records and make special reports to the House. They can make suggestions on procedure. They can make detailed rules for their internal working.

Datuk Amar Speaker,

Twenty-four Departmentally related Standing Committees

The functions of each of the Departmentally related Standing Committees are:—

(a) to consider the Demands for Grants of the concerned Ministries/Departments;
(b) to examine such Bills pertaining to the concerned Ministries/Departments as are referred to the Committee by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha or the Speaker, as the case may be;
(c) to consider annual reports of Ministries/ Departments; and
(d) to consider national basic long term policy documents presented to the House, if referred to the Committee by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha or the Speaker, as the case may be, and make reports thereon.

Datuk Amar Speaker, in the system of the UK Parliament,

United Kingdom

A select committee is a committee made up of a small number of parliamentary members appointed to deal with particular areas or issues originating in the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy.

It is a special subcommittee of a legislature or assembly governed under a committee system. They are often investigative in nature, collecting data or evidence for a law or problem, and will dissolve immediately after they report their findings to their superiors.

The Parliamentary Select Committees of the United Kingdom can be appointed from the House of Commons, from the House of Lords, or as a "Joint Committee" drawn from both, such as the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Committees may exist as "sessional" committees or as "ad-hoc" committees with a specific deadline by which to complete their work, after which they cease to exist.

Datuk Amar Speaker,

In the United Kingdom, Departmental Select Committees came into being in 1979, following the recommendations of a Procedure Select Committee, set up in 1976, which reported in 1978. It recommended the appointment of a series of select committees covering all the main departments of state, with wide terms of reference, and with power to appoint specialist advisers as the committees deemed appropriate. It also suggested that committee members should be selected independently of the party whips, as chosen by the Select Committee of Selection. The 14 new committees began working effectively in 1980.

The chairs of (the majority of) select committees have been elected by the house as a whole since June 2010. Before that members were appointed by their parties and chairs voted on solely by those members.

Datuk Amar Speaker,

Commons Select Committees

There is a Commons Select Committee for each government department, examining three aspects: spending, policies and administration.

These departmental committees have a minimum of 11 members, who decide upon the line of inquiry and then gather written and oral evidence. Findings are reported to the Commons, printed, and published on the Parliament website. The government then usually has 60 days to reply to the committee's recommendations.

Some Select Committees have a role that crosses departmental boundaries such as the Public Accounts or Environmental Audit Committees. Depending on the issue under consideration they can look at any or all of the government departments.

Committees also have power to appoint specialist advisers; these are not permanent members of staff, but outside specialists paid by the day. They are often, but not always, academics, and are appointed either generally or to assist with particular inquiries.

Datuk Amar Speaker,

The Government will normally make a response to a select committee report, either publishing it itself (as a Command Paper) or sending a memorandum to the committee, which can be published as a special report (simply saying, in effect, “we have received the following reply ...”), although the committee can publish the response with further comments or take further evidence.

Datuk Amar Speaker,

I verily believe that our learned Datuk Amar Speaker and all my dear fellow members of our Honourable Dewan have and share the foresight and enthusiasm for the needed reform and I would respectfully leave it to the August House to decide on the mode, structure and substance of reform, to inter alia, appoint the Departmental Select Committees to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the principal government departments and associated public bodies.

I have noted that Datuk Amar Speaker has been actively participating in the meetings exchanges and conferences engaging in the furtherance of parliamentary democracy, through such international forums as the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Conference of Commonwealth Presiding Officers and Speakers and the Westminster Seminar on Parliamentary Practice and Procedure. Indeed, Datuk Amar Speaker was once elected as an Executive Committee Member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, representing the South East Asia Region. His vast experience and knowledge in parliamentary reform agenda are certainly valuable and able to guide this Honourable House to be upgraded, reconstructed and rejuvenated, towards its excellence and be emulated by the other state assemblies in Malaysia.

In the meantime, it is my humble proposal that our Honourable Dewan set up a Select Committee on Competency, Accountability and Transparency to examine the performance, accountability and transparency of all matters of state administration including those of state agencies, statutory bodies and other related authorities and organizations.

Datuk Amar Speaker,

If we have had the departmental select committees or the CAT (competency, accountability and transparency) in this Honourable House, it would have restored the independence of the legislative arm of government thus enabling this Honourable House to progress and thereby perform a more dynamic and functional role in the governance and government of Sarawak.

I therefore respectfully urge Datuk Amar Speaker and the Standing Orders and Selection Committee of this august House to kindly consider and initiate the parliamentary reform of this Honourable Dewan.

As there is still time, I wish to highlight a matter with regards the answer that was given by the Honourable Deputy Minister to my Question No. 64 on Wednesday. When the answer was made available to the press, by Penerangan, 4 crucial paragraphs which are recorded in the unedited Hansard, last 2 paragraphs at page 9 and first 2 paragraphs at page 10,  were missing.

They are important because it reflected the neglect of the Federal Government towards the development of our rural schools in Sarawak.

It shows that under the first rolling plan (2011-2012), the state education department had made application for 32 projects, estimated to cost RM1.15 billion. Whereas, under the second rolling plan (2012-2013), application for 104 projects were submitted, with an estimated costs of RM1.94 billion.

It is a rude shock to me that, out of the 136 projects applied, only 3 projects were approved.

Then, under the third rolling plan (2013-2014), out of the 94 projects costing RM1.5 billion applied for, only 2 projects had been approved.

With such figures, it is no wonder that the majority of our schools are being placed under Band 6 and 7 and our school children are unable to compete with their counterparts in Semenanjung Malaysia when it comes to competing for scholarship.

I have to put this on record and let it be a reminded to the Minister of Education that this Honourable House is protesting against the neglect and a warning note to him that the National Education Blueprint 2013-2025 will be illusionary if he does not quickly secure funding for the upgrading, repair and reconstruction of our schools, especially those in rural Sarawak, immediately.

With that I conclude. Thank you.


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