Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Parliamentary Reform...Attendance, Full Time MPs, Questions, Voting, Debate, Allocations?

Parliamentary Reform - there is much to be done.

Attendance - Well, people would really want to know whether their MPs are in Parliament or not. It would be good for a record of attendance(including times) that MPs are present or absent from the Dewan available on the Parliamentary Website.

Parliamentary Questions -  Currently, the Parliamentary Website does not provide us with the Questions(plus answers received from the government) for the written questions or even oral questions(which were given written responses). For the sake of transparency, this would be a good for the people. It will also prevent a repeat of questions, for which answers had already been given to another MP/Senator previously. Questions rejected by the Speaker(with reasons) should also be provided.

VOTING - The number of votes should always be disclosed - votes in favour, votes in opposition, abstention,...including also number of MPs absent when the vote was taken. It will be best to list the names of MPs and how they voted. This would help people lobby MPs to change their mind for future votes. The absence of this information makes it most difficult for constituents to know how their MP voted, and even more difficult for people to lobby their MPs/Senators to change their position. [The use of 'WHIPS' should really be discouraged, allowing MPs to vote wisely on their own, after hearing all arguments and points made in Parliament and otherwise. The use of 'whips' really should be restricted to just Financial Bills.]UMNO-BN in the past required all their MPs to vote as directed, and they were even disallowed to support good points made by the Opposition - this must change under the new Pakatan Harapan government, and MPs/Senators must be restored their freedom of expression, opinion and even their vote...They are after all peoples' representative, and the use of the 'whip' forces them to vote according to what the party has decided - not according to how they feel and think.

Parliamentary Questions and Follow-Up questions - Now, the person who asked the question, is only allowed ONE(1) follow-up question after the government has answered - it may be best to increase this to TWO(2). The number of follow-up questions from other MPs should also be increased - but, of course, it must be relevant to the original question and answers...not simply a 'tactic' to waste time of Parliament ...something that may have been done in the past by government back-benchers.

BILLS - UMNO-BN suprises everyone by tabling Bills suddenly in Parliament, giving no time for even consultations with constituents. BEST Practice may be to make available PROPOSED Bills that will be tabled in Parliament disclosed on the Parliamentary website, media or government website at least TWO(2) WEEKS before...to allow greater people's participation vide comments, suggestions, etc ..

ALLOCATIONS FOR MPs - There should NOT be 'lump sum' allocations - but rather specified claimable or reimbursables - for office & basic office amenities, staff (which need to include Parliamentary Assistants/Researchers, Personal Assistants, Office Admins, Driver, etc ...see the earlier post...RM500K - No need 'Santa Claus' MPs - Just better quality MPs?

MPs should no longer be responsible for road repairs, home building/repairs for the poor, handing out financial assistance for funerals/weddings or to societies/associations, or sponsoring sports events,handing out flood aid, etc ...All these should be done directly through the relevant government department and/or Ministry. MPs should be spending time discussing and consulting their constituents..to better represent them in Parliament...

See media article below that is good reading...

See related posts:- 

RM500K - No need 'Santa Claus' MPs - Just better quality MPs?

Proposals for parliamentary reforms

PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 21 June 2018 01:55pm
REFLECTING ON THE LAW by Shad Saleem Faruqi

IN the post GE14 milieu, freedom is in the air and many citizens are demanding reforms to our system of governance. Out of the hundreds of proposals that have been submitted, some relate to improving the institutional efficacy of our elected legislature.

In our system of parliamentary democracy, the legislature is supposed to perform the following main functions:

  • The enacting, amending and repealing of laws. This includes the monitoring of subsidiary legislation.

  • Oversight function to ensure accountability, answerability and responsibility of the political executive to parliament.

  • Control over national finance. This includes oversight of financial policy, allocation of the budget, exami­nation of the use of financial resources optimally and whether money was spent for the purpose allocated.

  • Redress of constituents’ grievan­ces.

  • Regrettably, Parliament fails to perform the first three functions satisfactorily due to a number of debilitating factors.

    Making of laws: The political executive dominates the legislative agenda. Parliament legitimates; it does not legislate.

    To strengthen Parliament’s legislative role, the Government must issue policy papers on proposed Bills to enable citizens to provide feedback. Draft copies of Bills must be supplied to all MPs at least two weeks before the first reading.

    Bipartisan parliamentary committees to examine Bills before or after their second reading must be appointed as is permitted by the Standing Orders of Parliament.

    The committees should invite experts to give evidence. Private Members’ Bills should be encouraged as these may involve participation by NGOs and reflect the democratic impulses of society.

    A Select Committee on Subsidiary Legislation must be appointed to advise parliament on whether to accept or annul a subsidiary law. The two Houses should set up a Joint Select Committee on Law Reform. An independent Law Reform Commission should report to this committee to ensure that the elected representatives have a say in keeping the law responsive to the felt necessities of the times.

    Oversight of the executive: In our system of “responsible government,” the political executive is part of parliament and is required to answer questions, supply information and justify policies. However, due to time constraints, not all questions listed on the Daily Order Paper are answered.

    To strengthen Parliament’s oversight function, procedures need to be developed to determine the order of questions to allay the suspicion that controversial questions are deliberately placed towards the end of the Daily Order Paper. If questions are not reached, there should be written replies to these questions within a specified time limit. Once a week the PM must be required to face the House.

    Departmental Committees to evaluate the performance of each federal ministry must be set up.

    A Special Standing Committee on Executive Appointments must be created to scrutinise the PM’s nominees for all key institutions. Alternatively, a Special Commission on Executive Appointments must be established to vet the nominees and to ensure that only those with ability and integrity are appointed.

    The Speaker and Deputy Speakers should retire from party membership once they are elected to the posts. One of the Deputy Speakers should be from among the members of the Opposition.

    Opposition business and Private Members’ Bills must be allocated time one day a week.

    Control over national finance: Despite the formality of budget debates, the executive monopolises economic policies and determines how much tax is to be raised and how it is to be spent. Supplementary budgets are common.

    To strengthen Parliament’s scrutiny, a Select Committee on Financial Policy and Expenditure must be set up to examine the thrust of government’s monetary policies. The jurisdiction of the Public Accounts Committee must cover all institutions receiving or generating funds, whether a Ministry, a statutory body, a government-linked company, a syariah authority like Jakim or an “off-budget agency”. No audit reports should be withheld from Parliament under the Official Secrets Act 1972.

    Citizens’ grievances: Most MPs return to their constituencies often to remain in touch with the pulse beats of their constituents. Individual MPs run service centres.

    However, MPs, especially opposition MPs, are hampered in their constituency function because of lack of funds, lack of office space and lack of legislative assistants. These should be made available.

    The existing Public Complaints Bureau should be replaced by an independent ombudsman to investigate maladministration by the executive. The ombudsman should report to a Select Parliamentary Committee.

    Committee system: The key to parliament’s institutional efficacy lies in a strong committee system. All committees should be bipartisan. A Committee on Selection should allocate each MP to at least one committee. The PAC must be chaired by the Opposition. Chairpersons of other committees should be selected by the members through secret ballot.

    The committees must be assisted by experts and empowered to hold public hearings. The committees should invoke their privilege to compel ministers and civil servants to appear before committees.

    Other reforms: Parliament should have the power to hire its own staff under a re-enacted Parliamentary Services Act. An Institute of Parliamentary Affairs should be established to train MPs in the Constitution and laws of parliament. The proceedings of Parliament should be broadcast on a dedicated television channel.

    As in modern England, the PM’s power to dissolve parliament prematurely must be replaced by a fixed term Parliament (unless there is a successful vote of no-confidence or a two-thirds majority on the floor requests early election). Anti-hopping laws should be enacted to discourage party-hopping.

    To promote fair and free elections, a remarkable (but now repealed) innovation from Bangladesh deserves our consideration.

    During a dissolution pending a general election, the PM must resign and the King must appoint an impartial, serving or retired luminary to lead the country during the electoral contest.

    With these reforms, the legitimacy and institutional efficacy of parliament can be enhanced and parliament can act as a check and balance against the omnipotent executive.

    Emeritus Professor Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi is Tunku Abdul Rahman Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya. He wishes all readers the blessings of Eid.

    1 comment:

    Hakimi Abdul Jabar said...


    The statement of freshly appointed Attorney-General Thomas brings a hearty air into a long stale environment. His directive of the immediate cessation of Selective Prosecution must be lauded.

    In light of the ardent prosecution of the head honcho of the previous kleptocratic regime, numerous unrebutted allegations of siphoning, laundering and receipt of 1MDB & SRC International monies & funds by the Sarawak Report & other mass media, members of the Malaysian Bar, committee members of the Bar Council Constitutional Law committee and Malaysian citizens at large must decide upon the value & positive contributions (if any at all!) and thus, the very existence of individuals representing constitutional institutions which have long ceased to enjoy any support nor confidence in a new progressive democratic Malaysia.

    With the turmoil resulting from the unemployment of half a million Malaysians as reported in the mass media, such constitutional reforms via amendments & even abolition of tainted & useless constitutional institutions are no longer for academic discussion.