DAP calls for an elected Senate and restoration of elected local government  to pave the way for good governance and effective democratic representation at  all three tiers of government

Speech (Part 9)
in the debate on the Motion of Thanks for  the Royal Address
by Lim Kit Siang

(Dewan Rakyat, Thursday): DAP calls for an elected Senate and the restoration of elected local government to pave the way for good governance and effective democratic representation at  all three tiers of government.

The time has come to reform the Dewan Negara, which has failed as a revising chamber as intended by the 1957  Merdeka Constitution and  is nothing but a rubbish dump for political has-beens and rejects of  the political parties in the governing coalition.

The original intention of the founders of the nation that the Senate should comprise Malaysians who have “rendered distinguished public service or have achieved distinction in the professions, commerce, industry, agriculture, cultural activities or social services” had been completely ignored in the breach, and only those who have distinguished themselves as Barisan Nasional “party hacks” have largely been appointed to the Senate.   As a result, a Senate for all Malaysians has degenerated into a Barisan Nasional Senate!

The 1957 Merdeka constitution was framed to provide for an elected element for the Senate in the future and 46 years after Merdeka, the Senate should be made more representative and democratic by the introduction of an elected Senate.

The  system of the appointed local government has also proved to be a farce and failure in the past three decades, as well as the source of rampant abuse of power and waste of public funds, degenerating into the  disgraceful  annual spectacle of tussle for local government posts by the Barisan Nasional component parties 

In fact, the failure of the appointed local government system has become so manifest and colossal that it has burdened elected representatives at  the other two tiers of government, Members of Parliament and State Assembly members, with the responsibilities of local government – with MPs and State Assembly members having to attend to and resolve local  constituency problems, such as  road potholes and uncleared drains. 

The complaints and grievances of ratepayers about uncleared drains and road potholes are legitimate and must be attended to without fail – by the local government authority concerned, in particular the City, Municipal or district councilors, and not be passed up to the other two tiers of government of State Assembly and Parliament, bogging down MPs and preventing them from devoting adequate attention to what must be their most important task – to legislate and set policy for the best interests of the people and nation! 

The restoration of local government elections is urgent and imperative, if we are to get back an effective and functioning local government system as well as the other two tiers of government at State Assembly and Parliamentary level. 

In the Royal Address, the Yang di Pertuan Agong said that the people’s trust and respect for Parliament as the nation’s legislative body depends upon the performance of MPs – the quality of  their debate, attendance and active involvement in parliamentary proceedings. 

The Yang di Pertuan Agong is right in giving special emphasis on ensuring quality debate, participation and performance in Parliament, and this is why one of the important goals of parliamentary reform and modernization must be adequate  research support for MPs.

The Malaysian Parliament is  among the worst in the world’s Parliaments  in terms of parliamentary support to provide Members of Parliament  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 the  Australian Parliamentary Research Service employs more than 80 researchers who are specialists in various fields.

Even if the United States and Australia are regarded as too “first world” for Malaysia to emulate, we should not be falling behind Indonesia, whose Parliament has some 40 researchers to service  Indonesian MPs. In Malaysia, however,  the score is “zero”  - with not  a single researcher in Parliament  to help MPs in the past 46 years. 

This  brings us to the issue of the live broadcast of parliamentary proceedings, whether television, radio or  webcast through Internet, or through all three medium as is the practice in many First World Parliaments.

I have not heard of any good, sound  or convincing reason why there should not be an immediate introduction of the live broadcast of parliamentary proceedings, as this will be an acid test of the seriousness of Parliament to set an example of “First World Infrastructure, First World Mentality”.

No reason or excuse, whether technical, financial or from the standpoint of parliamentary accountability and good governance, why there should be no live broadcast of parliamentary proceedings which can withstand scrutiny has been advanced so far.

Concerns about “parliamentary antics” or camera shots of embarrassing scenes like  rows of empty parliamentary benches or MPs sleeping in their seats resulting in the lowering of public esteem for Parliament should be addressed as in other Parliaments, where there are guidelines on the  “do’s and don’ts” for live telecast of parliamentary proceedings to protect the dignity of the House.

I find the claim by the Information Minister, Datuk Paduka Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir that it would cost some RM54 million a year to provide live telecast of the parliamentary proceedings as totally absurd.  DAP has offered to be responsible for the live webcast of parliamentary proceedings if the Cabinet is prepared to approve a start-up fund of only one per cent of the Minister’s estimate i.e. RM500,000.


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