55 Mps Demand More Commitees For All Mps To Function Fulltime
MP SPEAKS | We, the undersigned 55 Members of Parliament (MPs), constituting 62.5 percent of the 88 MPs without committee responsibilities from the opposition and government backbench, call for the setting up of at least 13 more parliamentary special select committees (PSSCs) so that all ministries may be effectively scrutinised and all private MPs may sit on at least one PSSC.
All parliamentarians should be able to participate effectively in the national lawmaking and policymaking process. Parliament must not be treated as the steppingstone to be ministers and deputy ministers.
Instead, while ministers and deputy ministers run the country fulltime, other parliamentarians must also be allowed to function fulltime in scrutinising the government.
Even when the Parliament is not sitting to pass laws and debate over policies, private MPs must be allowed to perform their duty of legislative oversight through PSSCs.
Each focusing on one ministerial portfolio or cluster, PSCCs can meet frequently throughout the year to investigate issues and conduct hearings of relevant citizens, civil society groups, businesses, and civil servants.
Unfortunately, we have 30 ministerial portfolios but only nine PSSCs that scrutinise 20 ministerial portfolios and lump many important portfolios in one committee.
Out of the 220 existing parliamentarians, after excluding two deputy speakers and 64 ministers, minister-level envoys, or deputy ministers, we have 154 government backbenchers and opposition lawmakers who can sit on committees.
Amongst the parliamentary committees, the PSSCs which currently can have only seven MPs per committee, and the 14-member Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meet frequently while four other standing committees namely Committees of Selection, House Committee, Standing Orders Committee, and Committee of Privileges meet only occasionally.
With only nine PSSCs and a few MPs sitting on multiple PSSCs, only 61 MPs get to sit on the PSSCs and PAC, while five other MPs sit only on one or more of the four other standing committees.
This leaves behind 88 parliamentarians (40 percent) with no executive, House, or committee responsibilities.
If the number of MPs per PSSC is not increased, then the Parliament needs 13 more PSSCs to allow all MPs to contribute to policymaking.
As the Parliament met for only an average of 70 days a year even in the pre-Covid years (2000-2019), this means that even when Parliament returns to the pre-Covid normal, we as part of the 40 percent excluded parliamentarians, will be denied opportunities to provide legislative oversight on the executive in eight out of 12 months (counting Fridays and weekends when Parliament does not meet).
By the highest executive or legislative position ever held, amongst the 88 of us are two former prime ministers, one former deputy prime minister, one former parliamentary opposition leader, four former/present chief ministers, three former/present deputy chief ministers, one former deputy speaker, 16 former ministers, one former special envoy, 15 former deputy ministers, one former parliamentary secretary, one former state speaker, two former state executive councillors, one former state assistant minister, four former PSSC chairs, two former PAC members, and 25 former PSSC members, in total 80 who can draw from their vast experiences.
How many talents with years of experience and expertise are put to waste when we are disallowed to function fully? Why are we paid RM16,000 allowances a month but are not allowed to represent the people to improve governance all year long?
Why can’t at least 13 more PSSCs be set up so that all 88 of us can sit on at least one PSSC to provide legislative oversight throughout the year if we so choose?
Why? Apparently, the Parliament is not given enough resources to support more than nine PSSCs. Even if each PSSC will cost RM300,000 a year in secretarial support and other matters, 13 more PSSCs will cost only RM3,900,000.
Is it not penny-wise and pound-foolish to save at most RM3,900,000 a year by having inadequate PSSCs and wasting RM11,264,000 in 88 MP's allowances for eight months by disabling their contribution to national policymaking?
It must be stressed that our Parliament started to have regular PSSCs only in 2019 as part of parliamentary reform embarked by the Pakatan Harapan federal government under the leadership of former speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof. Before 2019, the majority and even up to two-thirds of the MPs could be excluded from national policymaking for eight months every year.
The exclusion of private MPs is the product of a post-1969 oligarchic mindset that holds only ministers and top civil servants as trustworthy to run the country, while parliamentarians (including government backbenchers) are deemed either not smart or not responsible enough to be trusted with the power to check and balance the executive.
Unfortunately, this authoritarian mindset lives on until now that we are in 2021, causing the country dearly in the loss of lives and livelihood amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
Taking a leaf from 1969, the proclamation of emergency does not only suspend the Parliament but also shifts the center of executive power from the cabinet of 32 ministers to the National Security Council of five ministers and four top officers in bureaucracy, military, and police.
With a narrower political base in policymaking and no parliamentary accountability, Malaysians have suffered greatly in public policies, characterised by blind spots, inconsistent enforcement, flip-flops, and loss of public and international confidence - in the eight months of the current emergency.
With the reopening of the Parliament, we urge the Muhyiddin government to part with this archaic oligarchic mentality and embrace the values of accountability, transparency, and participation in governance.
Ministers, deputy ministers, and senior civil servants must treat opposition MPs and government backbenchers as partners by allowing every one of us to sit in at least one PSSC to help the respective ministry to perform better. By giving PSSCs the inquisitive power to search for better solutions in laws and policies, the executive will get to better exercise its regulatory and allocative powers.
The current nine PSSCs exclude or marginalise at least 14 ministerial portfolios, including those in charge of Sabah and Sarawak affairs, foreign affairs, environment, housing, transportation, and human resources.
If the number of MPs per PSSC is not increased, we call upon the government to consider the 13 new PSSCs for the following portfolios:
The Selection Committee which decides on the number and composition of parliamentary committees should also be expanded to include more representatives from the opposition bench, which currently has no representatives from the DAP, Amanah, Warisan, Pejuang, United Sarawak Party (PSB), and United Kinabalu Progressive Organisation (Upko).
We also urge the government to allow all parliamentary committees to meet online so they can meet as frequently as necessitated by circumstance and save on travel allowances for MPs attending committee meetings held when the Parliament is not in session.
We are encouraged by Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan’s prompt and positive response to the call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the reform of the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) made by Deputy Speaker Azalina Othman Said on July 23.
We hope that the government will also take a similar positive attitude to our call for the setting up of 13 more PSSCs and Takiyuddin will take the parliamentary reform started under the Harapan administration to another level.
If the government can show its willingness and sincerity to govern inclusively and professionally, it can build multi-partisanship and political stability, reverse its trust deficit, and restore the public confidence in its pandemic and economic policies.
PM Muhyiddin must seize the reopening of the Parliament to open a new leaf in our democracy.
This joint statement includes these signatories:
Wilfred Madius Tangau, MP for P170 TuaranDr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, MP for P100 PandanLim Kit Siang, MP for P162 Iskandar PuteriChow Kon Yeow, MP for P049 TanjongLim Guan Eng, MP for P043 BaganJeffrey Gapari Kitingan, MP for P180 KeningauChristina Liew Chin Jin, MP for P190 TawauMujahid Yusof Rawa, MP for P057 Parit BuntarKulasegaran Murugeson, MP for P065 Ipoh BaratDzulkefly Ahmad, MP for P096 Kuala SelangorTeresa Kok Suh Sim, MP for P122 SeputehAnthony Loke Siew Fook, MP for P128 SerembanYeo Bee Yin, MP for P145 BakriSyed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, MP for P146 MuarMaszlee Malik, MP for P151 Simpang RenggamBaru Bian, MP for P214 SelangauTan Kok Wai, MP for P123 CherasMahfuz Omar, MP for P008 Pokok SenaSim Chee Keong, MP for P045 Bukit MertajamSim Tze Tzin, MP for P052 Bayan BaruMuhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik, MP for P053 Balik PulauSivarasa Rasiah, MP for P107 Sungai BulohMohamed Hanipa Maidin, MP for P113 SepangMasir Kujat, MP for P202 Sri AmanTan Yee Kew, MP for P116 Wangsa MajuSivakumar Varatharaju Naidu, MP for P066 Batu GajahWong Hon Wai, MP for P048 Bukit BenderaSu Keong Siong, MP for P070 KamparWilliam Leong Jee Keen, MP for P097 SelayangCharles Anthony Santiago, MP for P110 KlangSyed Ibrahim Syed Noh, MP for P144 LedangHasanuddin Mohd Yunus, MP for P101 Hulu LangatNoor Amin Ahmad, MP for P002 KangarChan Ming Kai, MP for P009 Alor SetarDr Azman Ismail, MP for P010 Kuala KedahKasthuriraani Patto, MP for P046 Batu KawanSanisvara Nethaji Rayer Rajaji, MP for P050 JelutongKesavan Subramaniam, MP for P062 Sungai SiputWong Tack, MP for P089 BentongMaria Chin Abdullah, MP for P105 Petaling JayaLim Lip Eng, MP for P114 KepongFong Kui Lun, MP for P120 Bukit BintangAhmad Fahmi Mohamed Fadzil, MP for P121 Lembah PantaiCha Kee Chin, MP for P130 RasahHasan Bahrom, MP for P133 TampinRusnah Aluai, MP for P136 Tangga BatuPang Hok Liong, MP for P142 LabisChan Foong Hin, MP for P172 Kota KinabaluAwang Husaini Sahari, MP for P173 PutatanVivian Wong Shir Yee, MP for P186 SandakanKarupaiya Mutusami, MP for P017 Padang SeraiTeh Kok Lim, MP for P060 TaipingTony Pua Kiam Wee, MP for P106 DamansaraNoorita Sual, MP for P181 TenomWong Ling Biu, MP for P208 Sarikei- Mkini
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.
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