Nazri should represent the government to work imaginatively and creatively with the Opposition to re-invent  a “First World Parliament”  in infrastructure, culture and mentality and not to “pour cold water“ in   a last-ditch fight to preserve the “dinosaur” status of the  Malaysian Parliament

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Wednesday): I am very disappointed by the negative response of the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Parliament, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, to my call for live telecast of Parliament in the New Straits Times report today “No live telecast due to ‘Opposition antics’”. 

Although the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had last month made the stirring call for a “change of mindset” as a prerequisite and “national priority in order to achieve Malaysia’s aspirations to be a fully developed nation”, it would appear that even his own Cabinet Ministers do not understand the full import of his words and the example they must set in their respective fields. 

In the parliamentary arena, the top agenda should be to re-invent a “First World Parliament” to blaze the path to end the “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality” Malaysian malaise which Abdullah had brilliantly pinpointed as the greatest impediment to Malaysia’s Vision 2020 and achievement of “First World” status and greatness. 

I do not wish to trade  invectives or to engage in an exercise to  score cheap political points which will only distract public attention from the central  issue to propel  the Malaysian Parliament into the ranks of “First World Parliaments”, starting by having its proceedings telecast live. 

Nazri’s claim that it was actually the thought of Opposition antics flashing across television screens that was preventing the live telecasts of Parliamentary proceedings is both  flimsy and frivolous , as he could not be so solicitous about the public image of Opposition Parliamentarians. 

If his allegations about the  “misbehaviour” and “misconduct” of Opposition MPs in Parliament are true, then it would be an added reason why the Barisan Nasional should agree to the  live  telecast of parliamentary proceedings – so that the  “low standards” of conduct and behaviour  of Opposition MPs could be publicly exposed.  Probably  Nazri is more worried that when there is live telecast of parliamentary proceedings, what would be publicly exposed are not the misbehaviour or misconduct of Opposition MPs, but those of Barisan Nasional MPs and front-benchers, especially the Cabinet Ministers! 

I am very surprised that Nazri seems to be belabouring from some residue of the mentality of the colonized believing that the “white men” are somehow superior to coloured people, when he said that it was proper in the United Kingdom but not in Malaysia to have  live telecast of parliamentary proceedings. 

I urge and invite Nazri to  represent the government to work imaginatively and creatively with the Opposition to re-invent  a “First World Parliament”  in infrastructure, culture and mentality and not to dig in his toes for  a last-ditch fight to preserve the “dinosaur” status of the  Malaysian Parliament

As the Minister in charge of Parliament, Nazri would be doing the Prime Minister a grave disservice if his guiding motto to proposals for live Parliament broadcast, reform and modernization for Malaysia to have a “First World Parliament” is just a negative “no-can-do” or “Malaysia Tidak Boleh” syndrome.

The only real problem standing in the way of the live telecast of parliamentary proceedings can neither be political or technical, but financial. 

The Information Minister, Datuk Paduka Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir wants RM54 million to provide live telecast of Parliament this year, on the ground that it would cost RTM RM100,000 just to telecast one hour of the Parliament sitting. 

Has Nazri done an independent costing for the live telecast of parliamentary proceedings?

I do not believe that RTM requires RM54 million to provide live telecast for 89 days of Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara proceedings for this year, as it must only be a fraction of the astronomical amount quoted by Kadir. 

It would not cost the government a single sen to provide for live telecast of Parliament if it is prepared to offer a free television channel to any public-spirited entrepreneur who is mandatorily required in his licence to provide this public service. 

I have committed the DAP to provide  live webcast of parliamentary proceedings through the Internet at only one per cent of the RM54 million quoted by Kadir, if  the Cabinet is prepared to give  a start-up grant of RM500,000 to launch such a public service. 

I have received considerable support for this proposal, and there was one email which said that the idea should  qualify for DAGS funding from the  National IT Council (NITC), if it is genuinely committed to the Demonstrator Application Grants Scheme (DAGS) to promote and facilitate the social and economic progress of Malaysians through the utilization and innovative use of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

Nazri should be initiating a national debate to invite  proposals for far-reaching Parliamentary reforms and modernization, instead of pouring  cold water to kill  proposals for parliamentary reforms and modernization.  Does Nazri see himself as a Minister responsible for  spearheading and shepherding parliamentary reforms, or as a Minister to block  parliamentary reforms?

For the past four decades, while Parliaments in the  Commonwealth have gone through several generations of  parliamentary reforms to enable their MPs to play more meaningful and effective roles as legislators and elected representatives, the Malaysian Parliament had embarked on the reverse process – progressively  and relentlessly curtailing and  emasculating the parliamentary rights and privileges agreed to by the nation’s founding fathers on achieving independent nationhood. 

Is Nazri prepared to identify and restore  these curtailed and eroded rights and privileges of Malaysian  MPs, and to catch up with the new parliamentary freedoms which MPs  in “First World Parliaments” have been enjoying in the past few decades? 

Just as an example.  Malaysian MPs are among the worst in the world’s Parliaments  in terms of parliamentary support to provide them with comprehensive and reliable analysis, research and information services to  ensure informed and high-quality  parliamentary debates. 

The United States Congressional Research Service (CRS) in the US Congress Library has some 740 researchers and analysts working exclusively and directly for Members of US Congress, their Committees and staff on a timely, confidential, objective and non-partisan basis.   In 2002, the CRS provided analysis, information and service on more than 811,000 occasions, including responses to 83,000 requests for analysis, information and research resulting in approximately 2,100 custom, confidential memoranda; more than 42,000 responses by telephone; and nearly 2,200 in-person briefings and consultations. 

The Australian Parliamentary Research Service employs more than 80 researchers with specialization in law, defence, international defence, economics, trade, social policy, science and environment and statistics.   

Other Asian Parliaments, such as Japan, Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia also provide MPs research and information support to their members.  The Indonesian Parliament, for instance,  has some 40 researchers to help MPs to ensure quality debate and participation in parliamentary deliberations. In Malaysia, however,  the score is “zero”  - with not  a single researcher in Parliament  to help MPs in the past 46 years, the reason why Malaysia is still very far  from the goal of  a “First World Parliament”! 

Is Nazri prepared to seriously co-operate with the Opposition to  provide leadership for far-reaching parliamentary reforms and modernization – instead of just saying “No! No! No!” to proposals to make the Malaysian Parliament a model of a “First World Parliament” not only for the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) but for the whole world?


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman & Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor