Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Suspension of reps a threat to democracy


November 27, 2013

FMT LETTER: From N Surendran, via e-mail
Since Nov 14, 2013, one opposition MP and two state assemblymen have been suspended by BN-dominated legislatures. The suspensions have been carried out in a high-handed and undemocratic manner, and without regard for justice, due process or requirements of the standing orders.
In none of these cases was the complaint referred first for investigation to the Committee of Privileges, as provided for under the Standing Orders, which is the norm in Commonwealth legislatures. Instead, BN abused the power of majority to mete out punishment without giving the elected reps an opportunity to answer baseless charges. It is a classic case of ‘tyranny of the majority’!
The power of legislative chambers to suspend elected reps is intended only to prevent the obstruction of the legislature in the performance of its functions. It is a power to be used sparingly and only after an impartial investigation of the charges. But here, it has been abused by BN to silence legitimate criticism by opposition elected reps.
We have been punished not for obstructing the House, but for fairly criticising the speaker, the government and their policies. The trademark intolerance of the BN has now reached a dangerous new level!
The extreme lengths of the suspensions are tantamount to interfering with the right of the rakyat to send representatives of their choice to federal and state legislatures. Legislative bodies have no right to negate the people’s choice by imposing lenghty suspensions. In the UK parliament, between 1949 and 2011 the longest suspension has been for one month. In contrast, I’m suspended for six months, Lee Chean Chung for up to one year and Chong Cheng Jien indefinitely!
The rash of recent suspensions is deliberate, and intended to intimidate and silence robust and principled opposition in our country. It shows the desperation of BN in the face of continiuing scandals and eroding support. It highlights the utter inability of BN to debate issues of national importance fairly and rationally without resorting to brute force.
The writer is Keadilan vice president and MP for Padang Serai

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