Reduce red tape and bureaucracy: Start with the highest law-making body of the State

Media Conference Statement
Loke Siew Fook

(Seremban, Saturday): On the 22nd October last year, I had tried to attend the Negeri Sembilan State Assembly sitting for the Budget 2003 session as a public observer but was denied entry to the Assembly by the officials for the reason that I had not given prior written notice. I had protested in the local media then and argued that even for the Dewan Rakyat, there was no such requirement to observe its proceedings from the public gallery and why there is such a requirement for the State Assembly?


However, I abide by the requirement this time as I wanted to attend the Negeri Sembilan State Assembly sittings for the Budget 2004 session which started this morning to witness and get first-hand insight of how the lazy and irresponsible Barisan Nasional assemblymen functions in the Dewan which is totally dominated by them. The Negeri Sembilan State Assembly has the reputation of having the “shortest” meeting as it had once been adjourned after only two hours of meeting!


I have written a letter dated November 4, 2003 to the Speaker of the Assembly YB Dato’ Haji Muhammad Shahlan to request from him for a 6-members delegation including myself from the DAP to attend the Assembly sitting as observers. However, two days ago when I called up the office of the Assembly Unit which is in-charge of the functioning of the Assembly, I was told by an official that my request has been rejected on the ground that I did not give a 30-days notice!


Isn’t this ridiculous? What is there so secretive of the State Assembly proceedings which required the public who are interested to attend the sittings to give a 30-days prior notice? In the last few days, the new Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has kept on talking about the inefficiency in government departments and to effectively fight corruptions, bureaucracy and red tape must be reduced. Isn’t this the best illustration of what the new PM said as bureaucracy and red tape when a simple procedure in the highest law-making body in the state required a 30-days notice?


The famous quote of the new PM, “Work with me, not Work for me” is meaningless if the state level leaders still subscribe to this kind of mentality of top-down approach where government decides everything and the rakyat are expected to listen to it without any questions.


In a vibrant civil society, the public plays an active role in the decision-making process which concerns the society. We are still ways far from that but at least the government should encourage the public to take a keen interest in issues of public interest. At the very least, the public should be encouraged to attend State Assembly sittings to assess the performance of their wakil rakyat in the Dewan and to achieve this; all red tapes must be taken away.


This sitting is probably the last one for this Assembly before the next general election which is expected to be called in the next few months. The people of Negeri Sembilan must ensure the return of the DAP in the Negeri Sembilan State Legislative Assembly in the next general election and they can be assured of a more “lively” debate in the Assembly in the next sitting with the DAP reps around.


* Loke Siew Fook, DAPSY National Secretary