Civil society groups call for parliamentary reform

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KUALA LUMPUR: Several civil society groups, including Bersih 2.0 and the Bar Council, are putting forward a proposal to reform Parliament, which includes calling for the Speaker of the House to be elected by lawmakers instead of being appointed, as currently practised.

Bersih co-chair Maria Chin Abdullah said the parliamentary reform agenda was to ensure better representation, consultation and consensus-building among lawmakers.

“We now have a two-party system. [We have to] make this work effectively for us as citizens so that we get better law making and better policies,” she told a press conference in Parliament after a presentation with some 20 parliamentarians yesterday.

Although they were also invited, no lawmakers from Barisan Nasional attended the presentation of the reform agenda by Maria, Bar Council member Syahredzan Johan and Global Movement of Moderates chief executive officer Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, who is also a former Umno leader, said.

Maria said one of the proposals brought up was that all parliamentarians should take part in electing the Speaker instead of the usual practice of appointing one from the party that has the majority representation.

“For any kind of process, we would want the stakeholders to be involved in selecting the people they want. The MPs need to be involved. This is something that is being practised by other countries such as the United Kingdom,” she said.

Syahredzan noted that in that country, the Speaker of the House does not come from the majority party.

“So that allows for checks and balances in the House of Commons itself so that you don’t have a situation where the Speaker is actually representing the interests of the ruling coalition,” he added.

Other proposals the groups are bringing forward include institutionalising the parliamentary committees, which include the select, public and joint committees, in order to make it more permanent, and to set the parliamentary agenda ahead of sitting. — The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 16, 2014.