by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Wednesday, November 8, 1995:
Najib deserves a vote of censure in Parliament if he treats MPs with contempt by not giving them adequate time to study the new Education Bill 1995 before Parliamentary debate
The Education Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, deserves a vote of censure in Parliament if he treats MPs with contempt by not giving them adequate time to study the new Education Bill 1995 before Parliamentary debate.
Najib said in Singapore that the new Education Bill 1995 would be tabled in Parliament on Dec. 19 or 20. He said the Bill would be presented to the Cabinet at the end of the month and would then be tabled in Parliament after the debate on the 1996 budget.
I would presume that Najib is talking about two separate matters. Firstly, the tabling of the new Education Bill 1995 in Parliament for first reading after the debate on the 1996 budget and secondly, the second and third reading of the Bill on Dec. 19 or 20.
However, after studying the parliamentary schedule, I conclude that Najib wants to rush the new Education Bill 1995 through Parliament for all three readings either on the same day or on the second day – giving MPs virtually no time to study and get public feedbacks on the Education Bill.
This is because the budget debate will not end until December 18. Originally, the budget debate would end on December 13, i.e. 11 days for second reading of the 1996 Supply Bill until next Wednesday and 16 days for the Committee stage debate. However, as the Standing Orders have been amended to increase the number of days for Budget Committee debate to 18 days (and the Standing Orders amendments had been immediately implemented affecting the rights of MPs when asking supplementary questions during question time), the 1996 Budget debate should go on till Dec. 18.
If the new Education Bill 1995 is given to MPs only after the Budget debate, this means the earliest MPs would get sight of the Bill would be Dec. 19 – and MPs would be asked to debate on the important new Education Bill and give it approval for all three readings either on the same day, or on the second day.
Considering that Dec. 20 is the last sitting for the current budget meeting of Parliament. This parliamentary schedule for the tabling, debate and passing for such an important Bill as the new Education Bill 1995 is most preposterous and outrageous.
What about the three other Education Bills which Najib has said would be presented and passed by Parliament at the same time as the Education Bill 1995 – namely the new National Higher Education Council Bill, the new Private Institution of Higher Education Bill and the Universities and University Colleges (Amendment) Bil?
Does this mean that MPs would be asked to debate and pass four Education Bills in all three readings all in one day or by the second day the Bills has been distributed to MPs?
After having won a landslide victory in the April general election and now controlling five-sixty majority in Parliament, the Government should show more respect to Parliament. But the reserve seems to be the case – to the extent that the Education Minister is publicly talking about a parliamentary schedule for the new Education Bill 1995 and the three other education bills which is completely contemptuous of the rights of MPs as well as the Malaysian citizenry.
Najib said in Singapore that “Never in our history has a Bill gone through such extensive and long drawn-out discussions, debates and scrutiny. Eight years is long enough and if it is not done now, it will never get done.”
This is the most misleading. Where were the “extensive and long drawn-out discussions, debates and scrutiny” on the new Education Bill in the past eight years?
MPs have not seen the draft Bill and know nothing about the “Extensive and long drawn-out discussions, debates and scrutiny” on the new Education Bill.
It is public knowledge that no work was done on the new Education Bill in the few years after the 1990 general election, as it was felt that the condition was not politically ripe for the passage of a new Education Bill. This means that although the new Education Bill had a eight-year history, it does not mean that there had been continuous and intensive work on the Bill for the past eight years.
I challenge Najib to make public a chronology of events on the work on the Education Bill 1995 if he claims that the past eight years had been fully packed with work on the Bill.
Nobody is trying to obstruct the passage of the Education Bill. All that is demanded is that Parliament and the nation should be given adequate time to study and give their feedback on the Bill, before it is passed by Parliament and become law of the land.
As the Bill has a eight-year history, it is not unreasonable to ask that Parliament and the nation be given two months to study and give feedbacks to the Bill.
If the Education Ministry could only give the Education Bill to MPs on Dec. 19, the Parliament should not be asked to pass the Bill in all three readings by Dec. 20.
Instead, Parliament should adjourn to allow MPs two full months to study and get public feedbacks and reconvene for a special sitting to debate and pass the new Education Bill 1995, and the other three Education Bills, at the end of February or early March.
I hope Barisan Nasional MPs would support the demand that Parliament and the nation be given at least two months to study the new Education Bills before they are debated and passed by Parliament, as this is not a party issue but concerns the privileges of Members of Parliament as well as the rights of Malaysian citizens to participate meaningfully in the formulation and finalization of important legislation with far-reaching consequences to the nation and future generations.