Parliamentary Service Bill should be ready to be tabled before Dewan Rakyat

WE have been informed that the legislation on Parliamentary Services, which was repealed in 1993, has been ready by two previous governments under two different prime ministers.

The Pakatan Harapan (PH) manifesto for the 14th general election had five pillars. The second pillar was on institutional and political reform (“Teras 2: Mereformasi Institusi Pentadbiran Dan Politik”) which was aimed at rebuilding the nation and fulfilling the hopes so that “we [would] once again become a country that is envied by all”. It had 19 promises (Janji 11-Janji 29).

Promise no. 16 was to restore the dignity of Parliament (“Mengembalikan wibawa institusi parlimen”). According to the promise:

“Parliament is an important institution to check executive powers. The institution of Parliament must have sufficient infrastructure and funding.

The Pakatan Harapan government will reintroduce the Parliamentary Services Act 1963, with improvements in certain matters so that the Act is suitable for today’s environment.”

To its credit, in January 2020 the PH government did announce that it was ready to table the Parliament Service Bill 2020 in March, which would restore the autonomy of the august House.

In an interview with Oriental Daily, then Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker Nga Kor Ming said the bill would allow the legislature to be removed from the Prime Minister’s Department and, to a large extent, lead to a separation of powers as Parliament becomes an independent entity. If passed, the act would also allow Parliament to have its own budget and hire staff, rights which were repealed in 1992. 

Since being appointed to the chair of the deputy speaker, Nga had been at the forefront to restoring Parliament’s autonomy over its administration and to enable the august House to play the role of check and balance in monitoring the government’s executive power for the benefit of the people and the nation. Hence, an institution that would truly reflect the separation of power doctrine.

The much-anticipated bill would have been “the mother of all Parliament reforms for the March sitting”.

But it wasn’t to be when the mother of all political moves – the Sheraton Move – oversaw the ousting of the elected PH government.

One would have thought the change of government would put to end the mother of all Parliament reforms. Much to the credit of Perikatan Nasional (PN) though, then de facto law minister Takiyuddin Hassan was reported in November 2020 to have said that the Parliament Service Bill, which would restore the autonomy of the Parliament, was ready.

“The draft of the Parliament Service Bill has been prepared. The government is fine-tuning and reviewing the establishment of Parliament Service Commission,” said Takiyuddin in a parliamentary reply.

Takiyuddin was responding to a question by Nga (Teluk Intan-PH), who had asked when the bill would be tabled for the first reading in the Dewan Rakyat. Takiyuddin did not indicate any date.

So, it is curious that Takiyuddin’s successor Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar should say on Friday that he would submit to the cabinet a report on proposals to modernise Malaysia’s Parliament, with one of the proposals being the tabling of the Parliamentary Service Bill “to give independence to Parliament”.

Such a Bill was already conceived as early as January 2020, if not earlier, by the PH government. Ten months later, the PN government, through its de facto law minister, also said that such a Bill was ready.

The current government has been said to be the PN government.

As such, the Parliamentary Service Bill should be ready to be tabled before the Dewan Rakyat. – September 6, 2021.

* Hafiz Hassan reads The Malaysian Insight.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.

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