After 50 years of merdeka, there was hope of fresh air in the parliament on the first session. However, reading from the report on the first day itself seems like old bad habits hard to die.
We have seasoned opposition MPs like Karpal, Lim Kit Siang or those from BN who should either show more qualities in debating or just shut up and be good backbenchers. According to the Star, sparks flew when the new Parliament session opened yesterday with MPs shouting, bickering and calling each other names live on television with the Speaker having a tough time controlling the House.
We do not want precious time wasted and I kind of agree with the Speaker that all trivial and technical issues can be put aside for more worthy debate and QA sessions. MPs to behave like “gentlemen and ladies” and get down to serious matters.
Well, the rakyat is watching, either through live telecast or reading from reports (some MPs update their blogs from the Dewan itself) which will not augur well for democracy. Focus on urgent and critical issues and let's the rakyat voices be heard, the Rakyat is sovereign!
It was a good article from The Edge:-
Putting the Rakyat back into the Dewan
For the first time in Malaysia’s history, we now have a parliament that is not heavily balanced to one side of the aisle. With the balance of seats in the Dewan Rakyat at 140 for the Barisan Nasional (BN) ruling coalition and 82 for the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR), and given the woeful attendance record of previous elected government representatives unless whipped, the utterly optimistic among us may have reason to hope that things will only get better.
We hope the Dewan Rakyat will come to be what it is supposed to be: the forum for informed and meaningful debate rather than a half-empty chamber where vulgar and racist noises are amplified.
Hope, however, can all too often become the poor cousin of reality. Before considering the fortunes of either cousin, perhaps we should remind ourselves of the raison d’etre of a parliamentary system of government: the Rakyat is sovereign. Any MP, regardless of his or her position in the government; as part of the backbenchers or the opposition, is there in parliament to serve the Rakyat and the country.
It is also parliament that scrutinises the performance of the country’s upper management, its executive branch, which has decision-making power over so many aspects of our lives, present and future. The separation of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government prevents the concentration of power in any one branch, allowing each to perform the crucial role of checks and balances on each other to uphold public interest.
What then is the record of the Malaysian parliament in scrutinising laws and policies in the public interest? Some statistics make for grim reading. In one survey of government bills introduced for reading in parliament from 1991 to 1995, Professor Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, the constitutional law scholar, estimates that 80% was eventually passed into law. Only a mere 5% was amended. (15% was withdrawn for various reasons.)
That this is the case is not surprising. The BN’s historical two-thirds dominance of the Dewan Rakyat meant that its MPs have tended to vote along the corporate or party line set by the BN leadership. Their failure of individual, rational agency for dissent in far-reaching matters of public interest continues to have its consequences for us all.
In 1988, for
example, in the aftermath of the removal and suspension of the Lord President and five judges of the Supreme Court, Article 121 of the Federal Constitution was amended by the Dewan Rakyat in a single sitting, with the requisite two-thirds majority easily reached. The effect of this amendment was to render the judiciary formally inferior to the executive branch of government. The constitution was used as an instrument by parliament and the executive to legitimise the emasculation of the judiciary. The rule of law was turned into rule by law.
Sadly, in the final reckoning of electoral politics, abstract concepts such as the rule of law and constitutionalism are a hard sell to the voting public — until the rot has well and truly set in, it would seem. What matters now is that parliament, as a legislative body and democratic institution, once again proceeds from ideals and principles rather than expedience.
More mundanely but equally crucially, the speaker, as head of parliament, must discharge his duties as an impartial arbiter of its proceedings, granting equal access to government and opposition MPs to time (for questions, to read bills) and to resources.
With that, we say let the debate begin. Let it be vigorous but civil. Let the 12th parliament, formally opened yesterday by King Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, be an inspiringly different one.
The Rakyat will be watching.