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Parliamentary Service Bill should be presented for first reading before
Parliament recesses on Oct. 27 and debated and enacted when MPs reconvenes
after Deepavali and Hari Raya holidays on November 14
The Senate House Committee made history yesterday in a specially-convened meeting when it made two critical calls, viz:
Before the Senate House Committee, I had issued a media statement calling on Kamaruddin Mohd Baria, designated to be the Parliament Head of Administration, to stay put in his old post as director-general of National Services Department and not to report for duty in Parliament on Monday until the controversy of his new appointment has been sorted out to the satisfaction of MPs, particularly now with serious questions raised about the constitutionality of the post and whether it is in breach of parliamentary privileges.
The second event was the announcement by the ”de facto” Law Minister, Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad in Kangar on the government’s agreement to re-enact the Parliamentary Services Act 1963 to ensure parliamentary independence and autonomy.
When I was informed by different press on different occasions yesterday on these two developments, I had only praise for both the Senate House Committee and Radzi.
I saw the prime news on television last night on the outcome of the Senate House Committee meeting. The most powerful part of the video recording was the reiteration of “Not At All” by the Senate President, Tan Sri Dr. Abdul Hamid Pawanteh when he was asked whether he was consulted on the appointment of a “Director-General”, then “office” and subsequently “Parliament Head of Administration”. I dare say that the Speaker of Dewan Rakyat, Tan Sri Ramli Ngah was similarly completely kept in the dark and was also never consulted beforehand like the Senate President.
This is the first time I have good words for the Senate, which I had previously condemned as a “refuge dump” for political has-beens and also-rans, failing to live up to the high hopes of the founders of the nation and fathers of the Constitution for a second chamber whether in appointments or national contribution.
With the path-blazing breakthrough by its House Committee, the Senate has taken the first big stride to redeem itself from its mediocre past, putting the Dewan Rakyat to shame, by being in the forefront to protect and uphold the doctrine of the separation of powers and the principle of parliamentary independence and autonomy.
I earnestly hope that the Senate would henceforth march forward and not look back for Malaysia cannot succeed in having a First-World Parliament if its Upper House continues the bad and irrelevant ways of its past.
When asked by Malaysiakini’s Beh Lih Yi yesterday before Radzi’s announcement - I said I agree with Barisan Nasional Backbenchers’ Club Chairman, Datuk Shahrir Samad that there should be no need for the respective House Committees of the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara to meet on the issue, as the government should be aware of the strong “sense” of MPs in wanting to revive the Parliamentary Services Act and should short-circuit the whole process by taking immediate action to re-enact the Parliamentary Services Act.
However, I still called for the emergency meeting of the Dewan Rakyat House Committee to emulate the Senate House Committee, as I believed in using every lever and exploring every avenue available to put pressure on the government to do what is right and proper, i.e. to re-introduce the Parliamentary Services Act.
Now that “de facto” Law Minister Radzi, the most important of the six Ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department, has committed the government to re-enact the Parliamentary Services Act to entrench the principle of parliamentary independence and autonomy, the elaborate process of convening the House Committees and tabling their reports to the respective Houses for debate and decision can be averted.
As there is no need to draft a new legislation, as what is required is to re-enact a previous Act, Radzi should be able to act with great speed to re-submit the Parliamentary Services Act which was repealed in 1992 for first reading in the Dewan Rakyat before the House adjourns for a two-week break on 27th October for the Deepavali and Hari Raya holidays.
There should be agreement by all MPs from all sides of the House to debate and enact the Parliamentary Services Bill 2005 on the first day of the resumed budget meeting on November 14, so that it could be enacted by the Senate on its first sitting on 7th December, enabling it to become law before the end of the year.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz is in deep political trouble. Is he prepared to shepherd the Parliamentary Services Bill 2005 through both Houses in time for Royal Assent and gazette before the year is out?
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission