KOTA KINABALU: Fifty-five MPs are asking to be given full-time functions in Parliamentary special select committees and make use of their combined experience.
The 55 MPs, comprising backbenchers from both the Opposition and the ruling administration, also called for 13 new select committees to be formed so that all ministries can be effectively scrutinised and each MP to be part of one.
They suggested for 13 new select committees for ministries overseeing Sabah and Sarawak Affairs (Federalism and Decentralisation); Religious Affairs; Foreign Affairs; Environment and Water Environment; Energy and Natural Resources; Transport; Housing and Local Government; Federal Territories; Human Resources; Communications and Multimedia; Youth and Sports; Tourism, Arts and Culture; National Unity as well as Entrepreneurship Development and Cooperatives.
"All parliamentarians should be able to participate effectively in the national law-making and policy-making process.
"While ministers and deputy ministers run the country full time, other parliamentarians must also be allowed to function to scrutinise the government," they said in a statement.
They said when the Parliament is not sitting to pass laws or debating policies, MPs must be allowed to perform their legislative oversight duty through select committees.
"With focusing on one ministerial portfolio, select committees can meet frequently throughout the year to investigate issues and conduct hearings of relevant citizens, civil society groups, businesses and civil servants," they said.
They noted that there were currently 30 ministerial portfolios but only nine select committees, which scrutinise 20 ministerial portfolios, and grouped many important portfolios into one committee.
"Out of the 220 existing parliamentarians, after excluding two deputy speakers and 64 ministers, minister-level envoys or deputy ministers, we have 154 government backbenchers and Opposition lawmakers who can sit on committees.
"Select committees currently can have only seven MPs each.
"The 14-member Public Accounts Committee meets frequently while four other standing committees, namely the Committees of Selection, House Committee, Standing Orders Committee and Committee of Privileges only meet occasionally," they noted.
As Parliament sits for an average of 70 days a year – even in pre-Covid-19 years (2000-2019) – the group said that they would be denied opportunities to provide legislative oversight on the Executive for eight out of 12 months (this year).
Among the backbenchers are two former prime ministers, a former deputy prime minister, a former Parliamentary opposition leader, four former/present chief ministers, three former/present deputy chief ministers, one former deputy speaker and 16 former ministers, among others.
They said the years of cumulative experience they have were not being put to use.
"Why are we paid RM16,000 in allowances a month but not allowed to represent the people to improve governance all year long?" the group asked.
Among the 55 MPs are Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau (Tuaran), Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (Pandan), Lim Kit Siang (Iskandar Puteri), Chow Kon Yeow ( Tanjong), Lim Guan Eng (Bagan), Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan (Keningau), Datuk Christina Liew (Tawau), Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa (Parit Buntar), Kulasegaran Murugeson (Ipoh Barat), Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (Kuala Selangor), Teresa Kok Suh Sim (Seputeh), Anthony Loke (Seremban), Yeo Bee Yin (Bakri), Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (Muar), Dr Maszlee Malik (Simpang Renggam), Baru Bian (Selangau), Tan Kok Wai (Cheras), Datuk Mahfuz Omar (Pokok Sena) and Sim Chee Keong (Bukit Mertajam), among others.