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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 defense


Media Conference Statement

by Lim Kit Siang  

Parliament, Thursday): 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 committees.

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 decades.

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 system.

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.

If the Malaysian Parliament introduces a vibrant and productive parliamentary committee system, it will mark an outstanding achievement of the premiership of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

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 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.

Malaysian 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.

Malaysia, 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 parliamentary practices.



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

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