Barisan Yes-Men in Parliament

I rise to proposed that the question, ‘That the Bill be now read a second time’ be amended by leaving out the word ‘now’ and add, at the end of the question, ‘six months after this day’.

Under Standing Order 53(4), I need to give at least one day’s notice in writing for this amendment, but I cannot do so as I only saw the Order Paper setting out the Order of Business of parliament last evening. I am sure that many MPs only got to see the Order Paper today.

It has therefore been impossible for any MP who wish to invoke Standing Order 53(4) to comply with it and this is why I have only this morning sent in my notice of my intention to invoke Standing Order 53(4).

On this ground alone, it would be out of order, most unparliamentary and a violation of all parliamentary convention to proceed with the second reading of the Exclusive Economic Zone Bill, for it is just not myself, but MPs generally have been denied the parliamentary right to invoke Standing Order 53(4) which requires one day’s notice, if they wish to do so.

In this connection, I wish to protest strongly against the undesirable practice whereby MPs only know what is the order of parliamentary business of a two-month long or four-week meeting on the first day they come to Parliament. State Assemblies require Assemblymen to be given at least seven days notice of the business to be transacted at the Assembly, and there is no reason why Parliament should not do the same.

In fact, the spirit and intent of the Standing Order clearly require prior advanced notification of Parliamentary business to be communicated to MPs, for otherwise, they would be unable to invoke Standing Order rights such as Standing Order 53(4).

I would therefore ask the Speaker for a ruling that it would be out of order for the Exclusive Economic Zone Bill to be read a second time today, for MPs have not been able to invoke Standing Order 53(4) which requires a day’s notice.

The second reading of the Exclusive Economic Zone Bill should be read at the earliest tomorrow, to comply with the Standing Orders.

If the Speaker rules that it would be in order to proceed with the second reading of the Exclusive Economic Zone, then I ask to be allowed to amend the question before the House to postpone the second reading of the Bill until after six months as provided for under Standing Order 53(4), although I have been denied the opportunity to comply with the one day’s notice requirement.

I do not wish here to speak on the Bill proper, which I intend to do later in the debate, after hearing what my colleagues Sdr. Sim Kwang Yang (MP for Kuching), and Sdr. Lee Lam Thye ( MP for KL Bandar) and other MPs have got to say.

I want to confine my remarks as to why the second reading of the Exclusive Economic Zone should be read six months hence.

On 25th April 1980, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong proclaimed a 200-mile exclusive economic zone with

(a) Sovereign rights, for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the sea-bed and subsoil and the superjacent waters, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water currents and winds;
(b) Jurisdiction with regard to –
I. The establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures;
II. Marine scientific research;
III. The preservation of the marine environment.

Several years before the royal proclamation, the Cabinet had set up a National Action Committee for the EEZ, co-ordinated by the Foreign Ministry.

This means that the Government had taken at least five years to prepare for the Exclusive Economic Zone Bill, but what is shocking is that the government expect MPs to study and debate the Bill in five days – and Sarawak and Sabah MPs don’t even get this five days’ notice


The Government must show greater respect to MPs by giving them ample time to study proposed Bills before demanding a debate, especially complicated bills like the Exclusive Economic Zone Bill. As the EEZ Bill was tabled for first reading in the July meeting of Parliament, why couldn’t the Bill be given to MPs with ample time for them to study it, considering the complexity of the Bill.

I thought that after the adverse publicity for Parliament and MPs over the Civil Law Amendment Bill, where the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs himself only learned about the Bill a day before delivery, everybody would have learned the lesson and be more serious about their respective duties and responsibilities.

But we seemed set to present another unfavourable spectacle about Parliament in the debate over the Exclusive Economic Zone Bill 1984, for clearly very few MPs would know what the Bill is about, for the simple reason that MPs have been given too little time to study it. We will only be repeating the Civil Law Amendment Bill fiasco where MPs would be passing bills they knew very little about, and have no time to familiar themselves with.

Any conscientious MP who wants to know what he is talking about in the Exclusive Economic Zone debate would have to refer to the voluminous literature on the United Nation Law of the Sea Conference, not just the Third law of the Sea Conference which took over a decade, but also the First United Nation Conference on the Law of the Sea in 1958 and the Second United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea in 1960.

I want to ask how many MP have seen, let alone read, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, with its 17 Parts, 320 Articles, and 9 Annexures, dealing with subjects like territorial seas, straits like the Straits of Malacca used for international navigation, archipelagic states which affect Malaysia, exclusive economic zones, continental shelves, high seas, – all of which are related to the Bill before the House today.

If parliament is merely a rubber-stamp chamber, then it matters not a whit that MPs know nothing about the Bills they are presented with, but to shout ‘aye’ and pass it. But if Parliament is meant to be a serious deliberative, legislative chamber, the apex of our system of parliamentary democracy, then MPs must actively participate in the legislative process which must involve knowledgeable and intelligent study and debate of Bills presented by the Government. There can be no intelligent debate if MPs have no time to study the wide ramification of a Bill. This is why I propose the debate for the Exclusive Economic Zone Bill should be deferred until six months later.

(Speech by Parliament Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang in Dewan Rakyat on the debate to postpone the Exclusive Economic Zone Bill 1984 on October 8, 1984)