DAP calls for a national referendum as to whether the Senate should be abolished or reformed to have direct election for Senators

by Parliament Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General, MP for Tanjung and Assemblyman for Kampong Kolam, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling on Thursday, Dec. 11, 1986:

DAP calls for a national referendum as to whether the Senate should be abolished or reformed to have direct election for Senators

The Dewan Negara President, Tan Sri Ben Stephens, and Senator Chan Choong Tak had responded to the widespread public disillusionment with the Dewan Negara, as in the past 27 years, it had proved to be a totally ineffective and useless Chamber, not worth the $17 million public funds allocated to it every year.

Nobody bothers about the Dewan Negara, not even the Government itself, which regards it as a retirement chamber of failed politicians and political ‘have-beens’, as reflected by the statement by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, during the recent general elections that “senators do not act much” and that “we do not listen to them because they are nobodies.”

Senator Chan had said in the Dewan Negara on Tuesday that the Senate should be dissolved if Barisan Nasional and Opposition leaders looked down on senators and considered them useless.

The Prime Minister’s general elections statement is the best example of the contempt the Barisan leaders have for the Senators, and the failure of the Senate or any Senator to move a motion in the Dewan Negara to deplore the statement made by Dr. Mahathir only confirm the utter uselessness of the entire Dewan Negara! If the Dewan Negara has any self-respect, it should demand that the Prime Minister come to Dewan Negara to tender his apologies for his derogatory remarks on the Senate, or resolve by motion to disallow the Prime Minister from appearing before the Dewan Negara!

The opinion of Opposition leaders for the Senators cannot be higher than that expressed by Dr. Mahathir, but we are prepared to suspend judgement to allow the Senators to redeem themselves before the people and history of Malaysia, in their stand on the OSA Bill.

The Malaysian public are hoping that despite the 27-year history of slumber, the Dewan Negata could at least respond to the widespread and deep-seated public opposition to the Official Secrets Act (Amendment) Bill.

Dewan Negara President, Tan Sri Ben Stephens, is wrong when he said that technically, the Senate, if it wanted to, could only delay passing the Official Secrets Act (Amendment) Bill by a year.

There are ways and manners for the Dewan Negara to delay the OSA (Amendment) Bill or any Bill coming from Dewan Rakyat for more than a year. This could be achieved by combining the use of Dewan Negara Standing Orders 53(1) and 56.

It is true that if that Senate refers the OSA Bill back to Dewan Rakyat because of Senate amendments to the Bill as approved by the Lower House, it could at most delay its enactment by one year if the differences between the two Houses could not be reconciled.
However, if before the Senate amends the OSA Bill and send it back to Dewan Rakyat, it refers the OSA Bill to a Select Committee for the most through public hearing and inquiry, then it would have gained more time in the process – depending on how long the Select Committee takes to report back to the Dewan Negara.

If the Senators are not prepared to respond to public opposition to the OSA Bill, then they would have confirmed the low opinion of Barisan and Opposition leaders and justifying their looking down on them as ‘’useless’. The general Malaysian public will also be fully justified to look down on the Senators with contempt, as people who could only waste public funds without performing any useful role.

Dewan Negara President, Tan Sri Ben Stephens, told the Star that the Government should review the role of the Senate and allow the election of at least half of senators. He said this was the only way to make the Upper House more effective an instrument for the check-and –balance as intended in the Constitution.

I believe that the Senate itself must be courageous and sincere enough to conduct a dispassionate review of its role at the current Dewan Negara meeting, and itself make recommendations for reforms of the Senate.

Instead of asking the Government to review the role of the Senate, why shouldn’t the Senators conduct such a review first, by way of a motion in the House calling on the Government to restore the public standing and confidence in the Senate by provisions of at least half elected Senators?

Alternatively, the Dewan Negara could pass a motion asking the Government to conduct a National Referendum to ascertain the wishes of the people as to whether abolish the Dewan Negara or to reform it by having direct elections for Senators.

There is another way out for the Senate, which is to initiate a Bill in the Dewan Negara to bring into effect Article 45(4)(b), which provides that “Parliament may by law provide that the members to be elected for each state (to Senate) shall be so elected by the direct vote of the electors of that State.”

The ball is in the Senators’ Court. Do they want to continue to be looked down upon as useless by all, or are they going to redeem themselves as ‘useful’ legislators.

How did a tin price support scheme of Maminco end up as an attempt to corner the international tim market resulting in $600 million losses

Tun Hussein Onn’s admission that he had chaired the Cabinet meeting on July 8, 1981 which endorsed and approved the setting up of Maminco Sdn. Bhd. Has at least cleared the air about the date the Cabinet first considered the Maminco project.

The Malaysian public, however, have the right to know why a tin price support scheme ended up as an attempt to corner the international tin market resulting in $600 million losses to the nation and people.

This was a disastrous adventure and all the misjudgements and wrong decisions resulting in such a great drain on the country’s finances must be brought to light, so that it will serve as a lesson to prevent future recurrence.

Up to now, the Government has not explained why Maminco is still operating as a ‘law into itself’, for since its incorporation in 1981 it had defied the Companies Act under which it is registered, by falling to submit the annual reports and accounts. This can only strengthen public suspicion that there is something untoward and improper in the entire transaction. Primary Industries Minister, Dr. Lim Keng Yaik, had also said in Parliament that the Government would not wind up Mamico for the next two years. Again, full details should be given by the Government to the people to give accountability for its Maminco Adventures.