Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Parliament needs an overhaul, say leaders

11:42AM Oct 21, 2014
By Susan Loone
Former deputy higher education minister Saifuddin Abdullah has proposed that Parliament be reformed to ensure real public consultation before bills are tabled and passed in the August House.

He said MPs, including those from BN, were hardly briefed about new laws proposed or existing ones put up for amendments.

He recalled only about two instances when there were public consultation - one being the 1988 Domestic Violence Act where there was a discussion between the minister and women NGOs before the bill was tabled in Parliament.

“For example, we missed the passing of the amendments to Section 114A of the 1950 Evidence Act,” said the former Umno Temerloh MP.

Others who missed it were senator Gan Ping Sieu and Youths and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, Saifuddin said.

“We only realised it the next morning when the Pakatan Rakyat MPs were talking high and low about it,” he told the 40-member audience at a forum, who were mostly youths.

Saifuddin (left) proposed that Parliament have a proper and official guideline to ensure a participatory law-making process which includes stakeholders.

He cited the example of Denmark where the public can scrutinise the draft of the bills online, including its budgetary concerns, and provide feedback before a minister presents it in Parliament.

Saifuddin was accompanied by DAP’s Selangor speaker Hannah Yeoh and Kluang MP Liew Chin Tong, and PKR’s Subang MP R Sivarasa at the three-hour forum entitled ‘Legislative Reforms’.

Penang Suaram coordinator Ong Jing Cheng moderated the event held at the Karpal Singh Learning Centre and organised by the Youth Parliament.

Liew said Parliament cannot carry out its functions properly like hold civil servants accountable and monitor government spending as it sits only for about 50 days  - during this year and last year, a reduction of 20 days from previous years.

He proposed a 30-minute question time for the prime minister to quickly answer arising issues raised by the opposition as is practised in the UK.

“For important issues like defence, prepare a white paper and lay down the real threat - which is no longer at the Straits of Malacca, Singapore or Thailand but in the South China Sea - for all to see,” he said.

“The discussion on military spending, for example, which submarines to buy, and why do we need them, needs to be open to all,” he added.

‘Set up panels to monitor ministry work’

Sivarasa said the country can emulate Jakarta’s example of setting up commissions to monitor or discuss ministry or government department work before any related policies or laws are tabled.

He proposed that the chairperson of the commission could come from the government or opposition MPs and the number of people in the commission should reflect the composition of the August House.

“Like the select committee, the commission can summon any person or file to be investigated for public interest,” he said.

Hannah (right), the first woman speaker in the country, said Selangor will be amending its standing orders to allow the state opposition leader (Umno’s Shamsudin Lias) to head a select committee.

She said he has rejected the offer as BN may feel pressured to do the same for parliamentary opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in Parliament.

“But once we amend the standing order on this he has to accept the offer or resign, as the state opposition leader has to head the committee,” she added.
~ Malaysiakini

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