Parliament should start a new
breakthrough towards “First-World Parliament” with the formation of six
parliamentary select committees on foreign affairs, parliamentary reform and
modernization, information technology, economy and finance, education and
Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
I welcome the new Ministerial attitude and Executive commitment to respect
the wishes of MPs not only on Parliamentary house-keeping and administration
but also in the decision-making and management of parliamentary affairs, in
particular with regard to the establishment of parliamentary select
In his reply
today during the 2006 Budget Committee stage of the Prime Minister’s
Department, Minister in the PM’s Department, Nazri Aziz
uncharacteristically, modestly but rightly said that it is up to MPs to
decide whether and what parliamentary committees, standing or select, that
they want – for the first time taking the correct and proper position that
the Executive will respect the wishes of MPs and that the Executive would
not interfere or intrude in any manner on this matter.
Are we glimpsing not only the birth of a parliamentary committee system at
along last in the 46-year history of the Malaysian Parliament, but another
first – the Executive upholding the doctrine of separation of powers
pertaining to Parliament, viz: parliamentary independence and autonomy to
run and manage parliamentary affairs by MPs themselves?
Until yesterday, Nazri and his predecessors had resisted the idea that MPs
should have the final say to decide not only on the administration of
Parliament, but also how parliamentary affairs should be managed, including
whether to introduce the committee system and how to go about it.
Twenty-five years ago, on June 17, 1980, in my speech when moving a motion
to form a Speaker’s Conference on Parliamentary Reforms, one of my proposals
was the introduction of the committee system. I had said:
“The Committee system is new and foreign to
Malaysia, and had been regarded
by some government leaders as an American system. In fact, it has become a
feature of most Commonwealth Parliamentary institutions.
“I am not suggesting that we in Malaysia should introduce overnight a
full-fledged Committee System, where there is a Parliamentary Committee to
oversee each Ministry. We should however experiment with this system, and
for a start, establish Parliamentary Committees for selected Ministries,
like agriculture, education, defence and transport.
“Such a Committee system will make a great difference in the effectiveness
of each individual Member’s work in Parliament, as members would gain real
knowledge of certain subjects and become truly effective in those spheres.”
(p. 326 - "Malaysia in the dangerous 80s" – Lim Kit Siang)
The call for parliamentary reform and the introduction of a committee system
had been the consistent call of DAP parliamentarians in the past four
In my first parliamentary speech after the March 2004 general election, I
underscored the importance of parliamentary reform and modernization by
describing them as first critical test whether there was political will for
Malaysia to become a first-world nation, not only in infrastructure, but in
mentality, mindset and culture starting with a First World Parliament.
Among the many proposals for parliamentary reform and modernization which I
made in my speech on 20th May 2004 on the Motion of Thanks on the Royal
Address for the official opening of the 11th Parliament were:
• some 30 specialist Parliamentary Select Committees with a Select Committee
for every Ministry;
• about ten general Parliamentary Select Committees to produce annual
reports on progress, trends and recommendations on national integrity, IT,
women’s agenda, environment, mass media, corruption, etc.
At the end of last year, the Barisan Nasional Back-Benchers Club (BNBBC)
appointed constitutional law expert Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi from Universiti
Teknologi Mara as consultant to advise on parliamentary reform and
empowerment, and one of his proposals was the introduction of the
parliamentary committee system.
I spoke to Nazri after his speech in Parliament yesterday and I was
pleasantly surprised that he seemed to be serious this time about leaving to
MPs to decide on whether and how to introduce the parliamentary committee
I have written to the Chairman of BNBBC, Shahrir Samad proposing a meeting
to discuss how such a parliamentary committee system could be introduced to
create a vibrant First World Parliament.
Malaysian Parliament introduces a vibrant and productive parliamentary
committee system, it will mark an outstanding achievement of the premiership
of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
should start a new breakthrough towards “First-World Parliament” with the
formation of six parliamentary select committees on foreign affairs,
parliamentary reform and modernization, information technology, economy and
finance, education and defence before the end of the current budget meeting
on December 8, which will probably have to be extended for a few days to
cope with the outstanding parliamentary business.
Parliament is one of the few Commonwealth Parliaments which does not have
the committee system although it had been adopted in most parliamentary
systems in the past few decades.
Almost all the
ASEAN original-five countries except for Malaysia has the committee system
for their legislatures.
which will have the unique distinction of being the triple Chair of three
international organizations, NAM, OIC and ASEAN, must be in the forefront in
adopting the best international practices, whether in good governance or
* Lim Kit Siang,
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission