Parliamentary Standing Orders Committee Meeting next Friday should take the first steps of long-overdue parliamentary reform and modernization to set the Malaysian Parliament on track to become a First-World Parliament

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Ipoh, Tuesday): The announcement by the Barisan Nasional  Back Benchers Club Chairman Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad in Padang Rengas on Sunday that parliamentary live telecast through the Internet (or webcast) would start with Dewan Negara as the Senate has given its agreement is good news.

The right and proper thing is for Dewan Rakyat to launch off the live webcast of its parliamentary proceedings, as it is in the Dewan Rakyat that MPs particularly from the DAP had been consistently over the years and decades been canvassing for live telecast of parliamentary proceedings.

It is inconceivable that Dewan Rakyat would have refused to give consent for the live webcast of its proceedings if permission had been sought from the elected MPs, raising the question as to why this had not been done so that Dewan Rakyat could be ahead of Dewan Negara to have live webcast of parliamentary debates.

Be that as it may, the consolation is that once live webcast of the Dewan Negara begins, there can be no way live webcast of Dewan Rakyat debate could be further delayed – or the elected MPs would not be able to hold their heads high as compared to the appointed Senators, which would be the first time in the 46-year history of the bicameral Malaysian Parliament.

It is important that the live webcast of parliamentary proceedings should come directly under the charge of MPs –  either with the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara each  responsible for all aspects of the live webcast of  their own  proceedings through respective Broadcasting Committees, or through a Joint Committee of both Houses to exercise overall responsibility of parliamentary life webcast.

This is the 19th month of the premiership of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as Prime Minister but there is very little to show for far-reaching parliamentary reform and modernization for the Malaysian Parliament to become a First-World Parliament. 

Next Friday (June 3), the Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders Committee is meeting for the first time in 18 months after the March 2004 general election, and I hope that it would initiate the first steps of long-overdue parliamentary reform and modernization to set the Malaysian Parliament on track to become a First-World Parliament.

The Standing Orders Committee should rush an urgent report for adoption by the Dewan Rakyat when it meets on June 20 for amendments to parliamentary standing orders, practices and procedures which require immediate  attention and action   to make Parliament a more effective and efficient legislature to hold the government to account and to ensure that the voice of the voters is  heard by the government between elections.

Some of the urgent proposals which should be presented for immediate adoption by the Dewan Rakyat in  its June meeting include:

  • Daily two-hour question time;
  • Prime Minister’s Question Time twice a week;
  • Formation of specialist Parliamentary Select Committees, starting with one on the Police and Public Safety  in view of the Police Royal Commission Report and its 125 recommendations and another on Women Advancement in view of the Putrajaya NAM Declaration on Women Empowerment;
  • Allocation of certain days a week to deal with Opposition business;
  • Modernization and democratization of Standing Orders
  • Research and constituency staffing for MPs.

Three   matters which must be immediately addressed in the modernisation and democratization of Standing Orders are:

  • Standing Order 22(2)  requiring  at least 14 working days’ notice for parliamentary questions, but which is so worded that it could mean requiring more than four months’ notice for a question to be asked in Parliament, making a mockery of the topicality and relevance as the two hallmarks of Parliamentary question time.
  • Standing Order 18 requiring 24 hours’ notice for raising a motion of urgent, definite public importance, but which is worded in such a way that it could in practical terms mean 72-96 hours with the coincidence of weekends and public  holidays – when the right and proper thing is to revert to the original Standing Order in the first quarter century of the Malaysian Parliament when only two hours’ notice would  suffice.
  • The inability of private member’s motions, whether government or opposition MP, to get time for parliamentary debate. In the  24-day  March/April parliamentary meeting which was forced ignominiously and unceremoniously to be adjourned a few hours earlier  last month because of leaking rain pouring into the chamber, government and opposition MPs had submitted 25 motions but not a single one was debated – highlighting the irrelevant and insignificant role of MPs in Parliament!



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