More autonomy for Parliament under proposed reforms

PETALING JAYA: Parliament is set to enjoy greater autonomy following plans to reform parliamentary processes, says Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

This comes following efforts to revive the Parliamentary Services Act which was abolished in 1993, resulting in Parliament’s finances coming under the control of the government.

“What we are trying to do is to follow the previous Parliamentary Services Act 1963, but with added features.

“It will give the Speakers of the Senate and Dewan Rakyat a bigger say in how to manage Parliament.

“The proposed reforms come almost 30 years since the Act was abolished,” he said in a recent interview with The Star.

Wan Junaidi said the new law would be modelled on the previous law, which the Australian Parliament is using.

“Through the reforms, Parliament will be able to have its own financing and control over its human resources,” he added.

Apart from drafting the Parliamentary Reforms Process Bill, the Minister in charge of Parliament and Law said that amendments to the House of Parliament (Privileges and Powers) Act 1952 and draft of the Code of Ethics for Members of Parliament were also needed.

He said the proposed reforms could also consider setting up the Parliamentary Services Commission as part of Parliament administration which has autonomy to determine policies and governance of the Malaysian Parliament.

“It will be challenging to get the reforms through as they require amendments to the Federal Constitution, which can only be done with a two-third majority,” he noted.

He said Cabinet agreed to the reforms and that efforts were being made to see it tabled in the Parliament meeting next month.

Last month, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said plans were underway to strengthen the nation’s parliamentary and judicial institutions for a healthier political landscape.

The assurance by the Prime Minister comes following calls for parliamentary reforms from civil society, other than MPs.

Meanwhile, Maria Chin Abdullah, who co-chairs the 13-member bipartisan Parliamentary Caucus for Multi-Party Democracy, lauded the proposed reforms, and said it should also include allocations for the hiring of research officers for MPs.

“This will support us during our participation in debates.

“It must also include a more well-equipped resource library with research officers to assist MPs,” she said, suggesting that there should be at least 111 research officers.

She added that the parliamentary select committees must also be given adequate funding to allow them to better carry out their duties.

She also said that more emphasis should be given to Private Member Bills from MPs, apart from government Bills.

“This would also include fixing the duration of Parliament meetings to at least 100 days to allow more time for debate,” she said.

At present, Parliament proceedings usually last between 14 and 30 days per meeting.

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) chairman Thomas Fann said the reforms, akin to the Parliamentary Services Act, would restore some semblance of independence to Parliament.

“But that in itself does not guarantee that the Parliament would be independent.

“Changes to the Federal Constitution and Standing Orders of Parliament are also necessary in several areas,” he said.

Among them are the management of motions of confidence and no-confidence as well as control of parliamentary time and its agenda.

Without these amendments, Fann said the Prime Minister could still dictate the agenda in Parliament.

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