Last week, the British Parliament introduced its year-long pilot official live webcast of parliamentary debates, allowing the parliamentary question time and debates in both Houses of Commons and Lords as well as some of the British Parliamentary Select Committee proceedings to be logged on live on the Internet.
The United Kingdom is not the only country in the Commonwealth and the world which is making full use of the Internet to make parliamentary proceedings widely and easily available to the electorate as the “right to information” is an important principle of the “electorate in a functioning democracy - and this is why live daily webcasting, i.e. broadcasting Parliament over the internet, is increasingly being used by various Parliaments, such as the Australian and Scottish Parliaments.
But what has the Malaysian Parliament to show in this field despite the grand pronouncements about the government’s multi-media super corridor (MSC) ambitions for the country to take the quantum leap to the cutting edge of information and communications technology (ICT)?
The Malaysian Parliament IT team has precious little to show although the Malaysian homepage has a history of more than five years. The only innovation it could claim is to instal a live 24-hour video of parliamentary proceedings for the Prime Minister’s pleasure at Putrajaya, but which is hardly used at all - or the problem of Barisan Nasional Ministers and MPs playing truant and the difficulty of marshalling a quorum of 26 MPs would not be such a chronic parliamentary scandal.
For more than five years, the Malaysian parliamentary homepage had been a disgraceful advertisement of Malaysia’s IT ambition, and every word of my castigation of the Parliamentary home page in the Dewan Rakyat more than five years ago on in November 18, 1996 remain as valid as ever.
I stated more than five years ago that the Malaysian parliamentary homepage, far from being a credit, was a disgrace and that unless there was the commitment and will at the highest level of leadership to have a parliamentary homepage which contained current topics and was interactive, it might be better for the reputation of the Malaysian Parliament to close down the Parliamentary homepage altogether.
Malaysia seems to be only good at trumpetting our MSC ambitions to be an IT power which are not matched by our ability or commitment to be a leader in the different fields of IT endeavour, as in having one of the best Parliamentary homepages in the world. Instead, the Malaysian parliamentary homepage must rate as the worst among countries with IT pretentions.
A visit to the Malaysian Parliamentary homepage will show that the record of daily Parliamentary proceedings or Hansard is available only up to November 21, 2001 although the Dewan Rakyat met until December 11, 2001 to suspend the DAP MP for Batu Gajah, Fong Po Kuan - a “black day” for the Malaysian Parliament.
The Malaysian Parliament webmaster who left the note on the homepage: “Hansard Dewan Rakyat akan dikeluarkan/dipaparkan selepas Hari Raya. Harap Makum” has either forgotten to return to his duties or his promise to update the Hansard proceedings.
And there was nothing current or archival to be found on the Malaysian parliamentary homepage - when in other Parliamentary homepages, parliamentary proceedings and legislations enacted for the past several years are all available on their sites.
When will the Malaysian parliamentar homepage wake up from its slumber and venture into daily live webcasting to allow Malaysians the opportunity to judge what the 193 MPs are doing in Parliament?