DAP calls for Senate reforms by implementing Clause 45(4) (b) of the Malaysian Constitution to have direct elections for Senators

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader and DAP Secretary-General, Lim Kit Siang, when addressing a seminar organised by the Butterworth DAP Branch at Butterworth on Sunday, 9th Oct. 1977 at 10 a.m.

DAP calls for Senate reforms by implementing Clause 45(4) (b) of the Malaysian Constitution to have direct elections for Senators

The British Labour Party, at its recent annual conference, has passed a resolution demanding the abolition of the House of Lords.

Malaysians must also be thinking as to whether the Senate, the Upper House of Parliament. is serving any useful purpose or whether it should be scrapped.

There is no doubt that since the inauguration of the Malayan Constitution, the Senate has failed to perform its role as a second legislative chamber by the participation of distinguished Malaysians in the various walks of life to complement the elected Members of Parliament.

The Senate has right from the start been used as a place where the rulin party of the day elevate political has-beens, and those who fail in general elections to get a mandate from the electorate.

The most recent example of the Senate being used as a political dumping-ground is the over-night appointment of Tan Sri Ghazalie Sawi as Senator in exchange for his stepping down as Perak Mentri Besar.

The original intention of having a Senate is not to give the ruling party a convenient dumping-house for embarrassing politicians in the ruling parties, but to have serious legislative and deliberative chamber comprising persons “who have rendered distinguished public service or have achieved distinction in the professions, commerce, industry, agriculture, cultural activities or social services or are representative of racial minorities or are capable of representing the interests of aborigines.” (Clause 45(2) of the Malaysian Constitution).

There is no Constitutional provision for the appointment of “Political” Senators, but they now virtually crowd the Senate. It will be difficult to find many Senators who are appointed because of Clause 45(2) by virtue of their distinguished public service.

For instance, of Clause 45(2) had been followed, and representatives of the legal profession had been appointed to the Senate, men and women who have the respect and trust of the rl profession and not because of their subservience to the ruling party, then the Essential (Security Cases) Amendment Regulations 1975 which has brought international shame to Malaysia because if the mandatory death sentence of a 14-year-old Penang Form One school boy, would have found another obstacle apart from the DAP opposition in the Dewan Rakyat.

In this regard, I call on the Government to immediately remedy this great omission and appoint a representative from the Legal Profession, on the recommendation of the Malayan Bar, to be a Senator to comply with Clause 55(2) of the Malaysian Constitution.

The absence of any Senator from the labour field highlights again the anti-labour attitude of the Barisan Nasional Government – the Barisan Nasional’s disregard of the important place and role played by workers in the country.

In fact, there should be at least two of not more Senators appointed because of their labour background – one for the public sector unions and the other for the private sector unions. Better still, there should be another Senator known for his consistent concern for the welfare of workers who can represent workers who are not unionised, which comprise the overwhelming majority of the working class.

There is an urgent need for Senate reforms, to make the Senate a useful and meaningful second legislative chamber – and not just a dumping-ground for Barisan Nasional political drop-outs.

In this connection, the DAP calls for direct elections to the Malaysian Senate, by the implementation of Clause 45 (4) (b) of the Malaysian Constitution which reads:

“Parliament may by law provide that the members to be elected for each state shall be so elected by the direct vote of the electors of that State.”

This will give the Senate representative character and make it a more acceptable and useful legislative chamber than it is today.