Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary –General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, at the official opening of the Kolam Ayer DAP Branch on Sunday, 20th August 1978 at 2 p.m.
DAP calls for ‘parliamentary reforms’ to make Parliament a more efficient legislative and deliberative chamber and proposes a Speaker’s Conference to modernise and democratise parliamentary procedures
The time has come for major parliamentary reforms to make the Dewan Rakyat a more efficient, effective and respected legislative and deliberative chamber in the country.
There has been a tendency in the past for the ruling parties to regard Parliament as a rubber – stamp to give the steal of parliamentary approval for government policies and measures decided by the Cabinet, and sometimes not even by the Cabinet, without allowing Members of Parliament whether from the ruling parties or the Opposition ample and adequate time to study and debate them.
This was why it was so common in the past for the Government to present Bills and motions in Parliament and have them immediately debated and adopted – without giving time for MPs to study the implications and long – term meaning or such proposals.
Although the Barisan Nasional Government can expect the Barisan MPs to give unthinking support to any measure it wants to enact in Parliament, this is not only unfair to the BN MPs, treating them as ‘yes man’ with contempt, it is also a insult to Parliament as the highest legislative and deliberative chamber in the land.
There is an urgent need for wide – ranging parliamentary reforms to make Parliament a more effective and efficient chamber. In this regard, the DAP proposes that there should be a Speaker’s All – Party Parliamentary Conference to modernise and democratise parliamentary procedures, to ensure that parliament could perform the legislative and deliberative roles entrusted to it by our Constitution and by the people.
In the past, the Standing Orders of the Dewan Rakyat had been amended piece – meal, not to modernise and democratise parliamentary procedures, but to put more restrictions on Opposition MPs from availing themselves of parliamentary procedures to make Parliament a more effective and efficient body.
I will be presenting a paper to the Speaker and to the Prime Minister on this DAP proposal.
Meanwhile, however, there are certain changes that could be made by the Prime Minister without having to wait for the Speaker’s Conference on Parliamentary Procedures. For instance, the Chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee, aimed at sorutinising government expenditures to ensure no waste or misuse of public funds, it traditionally held by an Opposition Leader in Commonwealth Parliamentary countries. In Malaysia, however, this post had been held by a member from the ruling party. Clearly, a Public Accounts Committee under the chairmanship of an Opposition leader, would be able to sorutinise and protect government expenditures more effectively. I therefore ask the Prime Minister, Dato Hussein Onn, to agree to the appointment of an Opposition MP to head the Public Accounts Committee for the new Parliamentary session.