DAP Proposal that Parliament forms a Constitution Committee to consider and make recommendations with regard to proposed Constitutional amendments before a full Parliamentary debate

Speech by parliamentary opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at the Sri Jaya DAP Branch Anniversary Dinner at Sri Jaya, Pahang, on Friday, 26th August 1983 at 8 p.m.

DAP Proposal that Parliament forms a Constitution Committee to consider and make recommendations with regard to proposed Constitutional amendments before a full Parliamentary debate

The Malaysian Constitution is one of the most amended Constitutions in the world. Since Merdeka in 1957, the Malaysian Constitution has been amended on nearly thirty separate occasions, involving some 1,000 parts of the Constitution. This make an average of at least one Constitutipnal amendment a year in the 26-year history of Malaysian nationhood.

What is most disturbing to Malaysians who want to see the development of healthy democratic institutions and values is the progressive erosion of the powers of the Judiciary as well as parliament in the Merdeka Constitution of 1957 in favour of ever greater concentration of power and authority in the Cabinet and the Prime Minister.

Thus, from a series of Constitutional amendments from the late 1970s, the Courts had been stripped of its powers to review certain Executive power, even if these power had been exercised in bad faith, and there had been abuses of power.

What is even more disturbing is a growing tendency for Constitutional amendments to be forced through Parliament without adequate reasons being given to Parliament, or even adequate time for MPs to debate the proposed amendments, or even for the public to be acquainted with the reasons for the amendments, some of which have far-reaching implication and consequences for the future development of parliamentary democracy in Malaysia.

In 1965, a major Constitutional amendment was forced through Parliament in a matter of a few hours, completely without prior notice.

The Constitution of a country is a sacred document and should not be tampered with whenever it suits the whim and fancy of the government of the day. Before the Constitution is amended, there must be the fullest debate and scrutiny, not only by Parliament, but also by the Malaysian people, as to the necessity, wisdom and suitability of the amendments.

I do not think there had been a single occasion when the Government had ever invited the Malaysian people and various professional organisations and civic budoies to give their view about proposed amendments, for the simple reason that such amendments are drafted and formulated in great secrecy, and sprung on Parliament as a ‘surprise’ with MPs given from either a few hours to a few days to prepare for a Parliamentary debate.

The DAP proposes that Parliament should follow the example of the various state Assemblies, and establish a Parliamentary Constitution Committee, which would consider and make recommendations on Constitutional amendments being sought by the Government before a full Parliamentary debate.

The Parliamentary Constitution Committee should make a report to Parliament on its view and recommendations on the various Constitutional amendments which Parliament is being asked to approve, which could involve inviting public views and representations, so that there could be a more meaningful political process of public participating in law-making in Malaysia.

The DAP MPs are in the process of formulating a memorandum on Parliamentary reforms for submission to the Prime Minister, Dr.Mahathir Mohamed, to make Parliament a more meaningful and effective Parliament, and the proposal for a Constitution Committee to vet constitutional amendment proposals would be one of the important suggestions. DAP MPs and former Mps are being invited to give ideas to this memorandum on parliamentary reforms, and if there are former MPs from other political parties who wish to contribute ideas, they are also welcome to communicate with me.