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What Cabinet should set up is a Ministry or Department of Parliamentary Affairs to efficiently manage the governmentís parliamentary business but not a Department of Parliament which will be the greatest threat to the doctrine of separation of powers and parliamentary independence from the Executive in nationís 48-year history

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Media Statement (2)

by Lim Kit Siang  
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(Parliament
, Friday): What the  Cabinet should set up is a Ministry or Department of Parliamentary Affairs to efficiently manage the governmentís parliamentary business but not a Department of Parliament which will be the greatest threat to the doctrine of separation of powers and parliamentary independence from the Executive in nationís 48-year history.

India created the Department of Parliamentary Affairs as far back as 1949 with five major functions, viz:

  • efficient and smooth running of  the parliamentary machinery; 

  • mapping out the time of the session and providing details of the Government's programme of business;

  • to extract from the proceedings of the House, assurances, promises and undertakings given by Ministers on the floor of the House and to watch and report to the House the progress of action taken on these assurances from time to time;

  • co-ordination of the activities of the standing committees attached to various Ministries; and

  • to act as an instrument of co-ordination effecting liaison between the various government sections which come in contact with   Parliament

Over the half-century and more of Indian parliamentary democracy,  the Department expanded into a Ministry, with one Minister of Cabinet rank and two Ministers-of-State,  with increased functions, including:

  • Fixing  of dates of summoning and prorogation of the two Houses of Parliament;

  • timely preparation of the programme and business for the session through co-ordination of legislative proposals emanating from various Ministries;

  • laying down priorities and order of Government Business for each House from day to day;

  • broad allocation of time between Legislative and non-Legislative Business;

  • determination of Government Stand on recommendations made by Parliamentary Committees in their Reports;

  • to maintain informal contact with Leaders of Opposition/Groups and to ascertain their views on allocation of time  for various discussions and to render assistance to individual members interested in discussions on specific problems of public importance.

The Ministry or Department of Parliamentary Affairs in India does not replace or usurp the Parliamentary  autonomy to be responsible for its own administration.

If the Cabinet is effecting administrative changes to bring about a Ministry or Department of Parliamentary Affairs under the Minister in charge of parliamentary affairs, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, it is a welcome development if it leads to a more purposeful  and meaningful inter-relations between Parliament and the Executive, e.g. the government support that could be given to transform the Malaysian Parliament into a First World Parliament.

However, if the whole idea of a new Department of Parliament is to cannibalise and remove   large swathes of the existing  parliamentary administration and staff  to create a new entity under Nazri, it would constitute a grave threat to the doctrine of separation of powers and the principle of parliamentary autonomy from the Executive -  a dangerous trend that must not be permitted.

DAP MPs in particular and I believe the civil society at large should be  very concerned as to what the new Cabinet decision announced by Nazri yesterday with regard to the creation of a Department of Parliament entails, not only financially  and administratively  but also from the standpoint of democratization of the political process and the empowerment of the ordinary citizenry in the country.

I will meet Nazri next week to ask for details  of the Cabinet decision on the creation of a Department of Parliament.


(7/10/2005)      

                                                       


*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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